Louis Rees-Zammit’s hasty ditching of Wales for NFL adventure is huge gamble | Robert Kitson

Louis Rees-Zammit’s hasty ditching of Wales for NFL adventure is huge gamble | Robert Kitson

So you’re 22 years old. You have always enjoyed watching American football and you have just had an offer to head to Florida to gauge your potential to make it in the mega‑bucks NFL. No guarantees but there is an awful lot of cash on offer if you can crack the code. Do you say: “Yes, please”? Or do you say: “No, awfully sorry, we’re playing Castres in the Challenge Cup on Friday”?

Place yourself in the fast‑moving boots of Louis Rees‑Zammit and, in deepest darkest January, you can see immediately why the ultimate American dream might appeal: if I’m good enough, sweet; if not, at least I gave it a go in my athletic prime. As LRZ made clear in his hastily written farewell note, this sort of life-changing opportunity does not come around every day.

On the one hand, good luck to him. On the other, he has just trashed the hopeful dreams of thousands of Welsh fans. Particularly those who would saw off their right arm to represent their country just once in the Six Nations at a packed Principality Stadium. So much for the green, green grass of home and the thrilling tingle of the pre-match anthems. It’s all about your personal brand these days, bois bach.

Maybe it is naive or hopelessly old school to feel sad about the most exciting Welsh back of his era being so quick to give up on something so special – by all accounts the call from the States came only last Sunday night, so he has not spent weeks agonising over it. Maybe someone, somewhere could also have advised him that the precipitous timing and lack of notice does him few favours. If it doesn’t work out stateside, universal forgiveness may not be instantly forthcoming.

Then again, Rees-Zammit has never been someone to sit around and wait for things to happen. “Rees‑Lightning” has scored 14 tries in his 32 Tests for Wales and his talent is real enough. So is his self‑confidence. As he told the Guardian in late 2021, he backs himself against pretty much anyone. “The way I look at it, the bigger the man I’m up against, the less he’s going to move.”

Rees-Zammit is aiming higher than Gloucester but universla forgiveness may not be forthcoming if his dream turns sour.
Rees-Zammit is aiming higher than Gloucester but universal forgiveness may not be forthcoming if his American dream turns sour. Photograph: Peter Flude/The Guardian

He is going to require all his searing pace and more simply to make an NFL club roster. Christian Wade was arguably even quicker off the mark yet ultimately had his ambitions dashed. Aspiring to be a wide receiver or a kick return specialist is all very well but thousands of talented sprinters in the States already have an innate edge. The NFL International Player Pathway programme awaiting Rees‑Zammit in Florida is merely the first of many hurdles, with the odds stacked firmly against him.

Some will argue that even the sight of him trying on a pair of shoulder pads is good news for rugby’s global profile in a nation where the next-but-one World Cup will be staged in 2031. Others will reiterate that every individual has a r

…. to be continued
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