Louis Rees-Zammit’s brother (Taylor) was the first beneficiary of Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions selection. He took away more than a thousand pounds courtesy of his brother’s inclusion in Gatland’s squad of 37.
What made Taylor’s cash coup so significant is that four years ago he bet on his brother to make the 2021 British & Irish Lions squad. Louis, at the time of his brother’s bet, was 16 years-old.
That is the belief within the Rees-Zammit family when it comes to the talent of winger Louis.
It is a belief that has extended to the coaching staff at Gloucester, Wales and now the British & Irish Lions.
Rees-Zammit is still just 20 years-old, runs the 100 metres in 11 seconds and is a try-scoring machine in the English Premiership.
He was the youngest ever Gloucester Premiership player and in the 2019/20 season became the first 18 year-old to score a hat trick of tries in the Premiership. He also was named Premiership Player of the Month in December 2019.
Welsh coach Wayne Pivac didn’t hesitate in selecting Rees-Zammit, affectionately nicknamed ‘Reese Lightning’.
And the young speedster was electric in scoring his debut Test try against Georgia and then producing a series of stunning performances in the Six Nations. He had already played four Tests as a 19 year-old.
This kid can play and Gatland, in picking him ahead of more experienced Test wingers from England and Ireland and Wales, has made a statement about the class of Rees-Zammit.
Gatland’s selection of 37 was noticeable for many big-name players missing out, and the former Welsh coach has never had a problem entrusting youngsters with the responsibility of a Test-match occasion.
As for occasions, the British & Irish Lions in a Test series against the Springboks in South Africa, is one of the biggest.
Rees-Zammit is a personal favourite to start against the Springboks and from interviews conducted, former Springboks centre and captain Jean de Villiers is another who likes what he sees in Rees-Zammit.
The 20 year-old will have competition from England’s Anthony Watson, a regular starter in the 2017 Lions Test series against the All Blacks, while Scotland’s South African-born and raised winger Duhan van der Merwe is another of the inexperienced tour bolters who could find himself with a Test start.
Former Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts believes the 25 year-old South African did enough in the Six Nations to be penciled in as one of the starting wings.
Roberts has opted for the experience of Watson and reckons it will come down to one of Rees-Zammit or Van der Merwe for the one wing spot. The two players have contrasting strengths and skill sets, with Van der Merwe’s physicality his biggest asset. One has power and Rees-Zammit has pace, which is why Gatland may shock the conservatives and play both youngsters in the Test series.
It would be a bold move, but Gatland is going to have to be bold to beat the world champion Springboks.
Roberts, discussing the Lions Test backline options, felt Gatland had chosen wisely and covered all bases. He is a fan of the player groupings picked.
‘I think it has tactical nous, power, pace and footwork’, Roberts said in an interview with World Rugby.
‘Conor Murray and Dan Biggar are in pole position to start as the halfbacks, with their tactical ability and control of the game, so I will go with them. I think (Ireland’s) Robbie Henshaw has to play in the midfield, but alongside (England’s) Owen Farrell. I like Farrell as a second receiver, a second kicker, with Henshaw at 13.
‘That for me means (Duhan) van der Merwe comes in on the wing as a ball-carrier. I’d love to see him providing that option. I have a feeling he is going to light up South Africa.
‘Then I’d go with (England’s) Anthony Watson. He’s been on form and he is fantastic in the air, and has footwork and pace. At fullback, I would start Scotland’s Stuart Hogg.’
The quality of the Lions back is evident from Roberts’s preferred starting line-up, and while no back division functions without a pack, Gatland certainly has picked backs who can cash in if the Lions pack does get on a roll.
The full Lions Series 2021 is:
- Saturday 3 July: Emirates Lions v The British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)
- Wednesday 7 July: Cell C Sharks v The British & Irish Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg) KO 20h00 (SAT) / 19h00 (BST)
- Saturday 10 July: Vodacom Bulls v The British & Irish Lions (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)
- Wednesday 14 July: South Africa ‘A’ v The British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 20h00 (SAT) / 19h00 (BST)
- Saturday 17 July: DHL Stormers v The British & Irish Lions (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)
- Saturday 24 July: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (1st Test, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)
- Saturday 31 July: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (2nd Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) KO 18h00 (SAT) / 17h00 (BST)
- Saturday 7 Aug: Springboks v The British & Irish Lions (3rd Test, FNB Stadium,
Also on www.keo.co.za