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Six Nations: Wales dealt huge blow as Louis Rees-Zammit swaps rugby for NFL

The announcement that young rugby union star Louis Rees-Zammit will quit the sport to try his luck at American Football will come as a major shock to rugby fans.

At the age of just 22, the winger has decided to cross the Atlantic and try to find himself an NFL team for the 2024-25 season.

Not only is this a surprise decision from one of the up-and-coming stars of union, but the timing is also going to have a big impact on both Wales and his club side, Gloucester.

Gatland has to find Six Nations solution

Since making his international debut as a teenager in October 2020, pundits and supporters alike have talked Rees-Zammit up as a star of the future.

The Penarth-born ace, who has been capped 32 times, took to top-level matches like a duck to water - scoring his first Six Nations try on his competition debut against Ireland in February 2021.

A week later, he crossed the whitewash twice against Scotland at Murrayfield and was named Man of the Match, to emphasise his growing importance to the Wales team – who are 25/1 to win the 2024 Six Nations title.

Undoubtedly, he would have been a key part of Warren Gatland’s plans going forward, but the Wales coach will now have to fill the huge void left by Rees-Zammit’s departure.

Cardiff-born Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was suggested as a potential call-up, but the Exeter wing recently said he didn’t want to be considered for selection – and he could instead be part of the England squad.

Dragons’ Rio Dyer and experienced Cardiff man Josh Adams look like starting on the wing for the opener against Scotland – with Gatland’s men 4/5 to win the Millennium Stadium clash.

Rugby Union

Gloucester back winger’s big call

Reece-Zammit has been a Gloucester player since 2018, making over 70 appearances and scoring 190 points to date for the Premiership outfit.

As his only professional club, the 22-year-old admitted the Cherry and Whites are “extremely close to my heart”.

His departure will be immediate, as he travels to Florida to join the NFL international player pathway looking to secure a deal with an NFL team.

But despite currently sitting second bottom, Gloucester have given Rees-Zammit – who has scored four tries in eight appearances this season - their full support.

Chief Executive Alex Brown stated: "We understand the size of the opportunity before Zam [Rees-Zammit] and his lifelong ambition to play in the NFL. Whilst we are naturally sad to see him leave, ultimately we are not able to dissuade him from taking an opportunity of this magnitude with the NFL."

Other stars who tried their luck in NFL

Rees-Zammit won’t be the first British sports star to try their luck in the NFL, with a host of other athletes making the switch to Gridiron.

Former England rugby union player Christian Wade left the sport in 2018, when Wasps released him from his contract.

The winger, who made just one senior appearance for this country, joined the Buffalo Bills – 5/1 to win Super Bowl LVIII - and was on their reserve/practice squad for three years, but couldn’t make the breakthrough to the main squad and was released in April 2022.

Ex-sprinter Dwanye Chambers and former discus thrower Lawrence Okoye also had spells in the sport, with varying degrees of success.

Chambers played in NFL Europe but didn’t get the call up to the Big League, while defensive tackle Okoye had spells with six NFL teams and only made the practice squads.

Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne left the NRL in 2014 to see if he could make it in American Football.

The Australian international signed a big-money contract with the San Francisco 49ers and although he made their 53-man squad, he decided to retire from the sport in 2016.

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