England's futile attempt to poach Welsh sensation
NEWS: Reports suggest England head coach Eddie Jones is in hot pursuit of Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, the Welsh wing star that’s breaking Premiership try-scoring records.
According to The Rugby Paper Jones has personally reached out to the 18-year-old to sound him out regarding the possibility of playing for England under residency rules, as opposed to his native Wales.
Rees-Zammit is understood to have been two years resident in England to date – formally as a student of Hartpury College, so theoretically he needs to spend at least another 12 months in Gloucester before completing his 36-month time period under World Rugby’s much-debated eligibility rules.
The problem for England is that they would have to cap him before the end of the year, as Regulation 8’s new sixty-month residency requirement comes into effect after the cut-off date of December 31.
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The current residency requirement – up to and including December 31 – is “thirty-six consecutive months of Residence immediately preceding the time of playing”.
Depending on how exactly how long Rees-Zammit has been resident on the eastern side of Severn, this could mean England would have little or even no window in which to cap the Welshman in 2020, before effectively losing him until 2023 – the final year of the current World Cup cycle and almost certainly the last year that Jones is likely to be in charge at Twickenham.
But this isn’t the real problem for Jones and England.
The true kicker is that Rees-Zammit has pinned his colours to the mast and not in a strictly metaphorical sense either.
England may want the flyer, but he doesn’t want England.
The speedster was directly asked on by former England flyhalf turned commentator Andy Goode if he was English qualified.
Rees-Zammit’s response was brilliantly simple, a Welsh flag emoji.
Is Louis Rees-Zammit English qualified? @LouisReesZammit are you?!
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) December 20, 2019
More importantly, he has since pinned that very response to the top of his Twitter feed.
Ultimately, Wales could decide to cap the youngster in the Six Nations, and seal off any possibility of him even switching allegiances.
Should Wayne Pivac and Wales come calling, it’s unlikely the young Welshman would do anything other than come running, whether Eddie Jones wants him for England or not.