Wayne Pivac told Louis Rees-Zammit he wants to see the Gloucester wing playing domestic rugby in Wales after brutally dropping his flying wing for Saturday’s crunch Six Nations clash with England.
On Thursday Pivac confirmed the 21-year-old was fit to be selected for the trip to Twickenham and that he expects him to feature in the Gallagher Premiership this weekend.
The Wales head coach’s revelation Rees-Zammit has been left out on form and not fitness grounds makes the decision – which Sportsmail revealed was imminent on Wednesday – all the bigger.
Wayne Pivac (left) told Louis Rees-Zammit (right) he wants to see him playing domestic rugby in Wales
After lighting up last year’s Six Nations with four tries as Wales claimed a surprise title success, Rees-Zammit quickly emerged as the new pin-up boy for Welsh rugby although he was not at his electric best in Wales’ first two Six Nations games with Ireland and Scotland.
Rees-Zammit picked up an ankle knock in the warm-up to the Dublin clash – one which didn’t stop him playing 80 minutes in both matches – before returning to his club Gloucester last week.
Wales players with English clubs must return to their employers during non-Test weeks under World Rugby’s regulation nine which means they miss out on long periods of international training time.
The flying wing picked up an ankle knock in the warm-up to the Dublin clash but has played 80 minutes in both Wales’s Six Nations games so far
Pivac and his Welsh Rugby Union bosses want as many of their Test players as possible to be with Welsh regions in order to maximise their availability.
Asked if he was keen on Rees-Zammit playing for a Welsh region, Pivac said: ‘Definitely. It’s certainly the ideal situation to have your whole squad for the whole tournament.
‘We know that’s not going to be the case when we select the squad initially and we work with the players we’ve got.
‘Training alters a little bit because you don’t have the same personnel, but certainly selection is going on form. Louis is fit to play. Is he at 100 per cent with his ankle?
‘Many, many rugby players play at not quite 100. I expect him to be playing at the weekend.’
The 21-year-old returned to his domestic side Gloucester last week in the Premiership
Of the 23 players Pivac named in his Wales squad to face England on Thursday, just three – captain Dan Biggar, centre Nick Tompkins and returning No 8 Taulupe Faletau – are employed by English clubs. Bath’s Faletau will join Welsh region Cardiff for next season.
Pivac’s selection for the England match emphasises just how much importance he places on having his players available for the whole of the Six Nations.
As well as Rees-Zammit, Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy has also been left out for England and is on the bench for the Bears against Wasps on Friday.
Bristol fly-half Callum Sheedy (right) has also been left out for the England clash
Gloucester name their team to face Premiership leaders Leicester on Saturday on Friday with Rees-Zammit expected to be among the replacements.
England head coach Eddie Jones couldn’t resist giving his view on Rees-Zammit – a player he once tried to poach – by claiming the British & Irish Lion wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
‘They have left Zammit out because I don’t think he’s fit,’ said Jones. ‘I don’t think he’s healthy.
England head coach Eddie Jones couldn’t resist giving his view on Rees-Zammit
‘If you were a racehorse owner, you wouldn’t be putting him out on the track.
‘You would have him in the stables for a while.’
Pivac, who has the fit again Josh Adams and Alex Cuthbert on his wings, countered: ‘Has Eddie got spies in our training sessions?
‘It’s a tough call on Louis, but one we think is the right call. He’s obviously disappointed.
‘We expect him to go and work hard on his game and come back stronger. There are a few things we’ve spoken to him about and also George Skivington, his Gloucester coach.
‘He knows what they are and he’ll work very hard.’
Pivac’s desire to have Rees-Zammit join a Welsh region is complicated by the fact he signed a ‘long-term’ Gloucester deal in 2020.
But there no doubt his non-selection for this weekend is a warning to one of rugby’s most marketable stars to if not buck up his ideas, then certainly not count his chickens.
‘It’s never easy when selection doesn’t quite go your way,’ said Wales captain Biggar.
‘The only people I can think of who have never had to go through it are players like Dan Carter or Jonny Wilkinson.
Wales captain Dan Biggar admitted it is not easy when selection doesn’t go a player’s way
‘Louis is young, he’s burst on to the scene, is an incredible talent and is a real poster boy for Wales. I don’t think anyone is thinking this is the end for him at all!
‘At 21, he’s got years and years left in him. He’ll bounce back no doubt and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have an absolute stormer for Gloucester this weekend.
‘I’ve said to him “You don’t want to be sulking about it for too long” and he won’t because he’s a great lad. He’s got a brilliant head on his shoulders.
‘He’s an extremely talented boy with a huge future and I’m sure this is just a little blip for him.’
Adams and Faletau are the only Wales changes from the side which beat Scotland 20-17.
Josh Adams and Taulupe Faletau (pictured) are the only changes from the side which beat Scotland
Pivac’s men must win at Twickenham in the Six Nations for the first time since 2012 to keep their title hopes alive. Wales’ last victory at the home of English rugby was their famous 2015 World Cup success.
‘History would show it’s a hard place to go and get a result, but we’re certainly going there with that aim in mind,’ said Pivac. ‘This is the game the fans want Wales to win.
‘We know it means a lot to the public and it also means a lot to the players. We need to transfer the performance we had in front of our own supporters to Twickenham.’
2012: Wales’ last Six Nations victory over England at Twickenham was a decade ago, although they did win at HQ in the 2015 World Cup.