Louis Rees-Zammit has broken into another team – in the same week he is expected to be included in the Wales squad for the 2020 Six Nations.
The teenage Gloucester wing – who signed a long-term contract with the English club on Monday and is the current Premiership Player of the Month – has been named in the Cardiff Schools Team of the Decade.
Rees-Zammit, who is the nephew of the former Cardiff, Pontypool and Wales B full-back Paul Rees, will qualify for England this year on residency and has been sounded out by the World Cup finalists’ head coach, Eddie Jones. But he wants to play for the country where he was born and raised.
“My dream is to represent Wales at an international level and I just want to keep working hard to achieve this goal, along with helping Gloucester reach our ambitions for success,” he said.
— Ysgolion Caerdydd / Cardiff Schools Rugby (@RygbiCaerdydd) January 13, 2020
Identifying talent, retaining it and maximising its potential is one of the most crucial aspects in professional sport, yet it has become one of the most contentious issues at Cardiff Blues in recent seasons.
Rhys Carre left the Arms Park last season to join Saracens and then the hottest teenage prospect in Welsh rugby, giant lock Christian Tshiunza, pledged his long-term future to Exeter Chiefs despite being offered the biggest Academy deal ever offered by the Blues.
Throw in Bristol and now England XV outside-half Callum Sheedy, as well as his clubmate Ioan Lloyd, and there are big questions to be raised about why the best talent from the Welsh capital are looking to play away from the hollowed turf at the Arms Park.
Then, of course, there is the sensational young wing Rees Zammit. Just voted the Gallagher Premiership Player of the Month, the speedy 18-year-old is on the cusp of being included in Wayne Pivac’s first Six Nations squad.
All these players were included in the recently published ‘Cardiff Schools Team of the Decade’, along with a host of other age grade internationals who have either slipped through the fingers of the Blues recruiters, or have been dispensed with by the region.
The Fry brothers, Ben and Harry, both came through Radyr Comprehensive School. Ben is a Wales U18 and U20 cap who is now on the Dragons books as a back row forward, while Harry has already played for England U18 and is in the Gloucester Academy.
At least the former Ysgol Glantaf and Wales U20 lock Teddy Williams is on the books with the Blues, as is former Cardiff & Vale College centre Ben Thomas. Owen Lane has progressed right through the ranks and is now starring on the wing for both the Blues and Wales.
Carre joined him in playing for Wales last year, but that’s it in terms of full internationals produced by the schools from Wales’ biggest city over the past 10 years.
There are two school teams in the city that play in the Welsh Schools & Colleges League, Whitchurch HS, Sam Warburton’s old alma mater, and Glantaf, who have produced Jamie Roberts and Rhys Patchell in recent years, but neither has ever reached the final.
That has become the preserve of the shining light in the Blues North region, Coleg Y Cymoedd, who will be looking to defend their title at the Arms Park on Tuesday night.
Cardiff Schools Team of the Decade
15 Ioan Davies (Ysgol Glantaf / Cardiff Blues / Wales U20)
14 Owen Lane (Whitchurch HS / Cardiff Blues / Wales)
13 Ioan Lloyd (Ysgol Glantaf / Bristol Bears / Wales U18)
12 Ben Thomas (Corpus Christi / Cardiff Blues / Wales U20)
11 Louis Rees Zammit (Cathedral School / Gloucester / Wales U18)
10 Callum Sheedy (Corpus Christi / Bristol Bears / England XV)
9 Liam Free (Whitchurch HS / Ulster / Ireland U19)
1 Rhys Carre (Corpus Christi / Saracens / Wales)
2 Syd Blackmore (Cathedral School / Ampthill / Wales U20)
3 Harry Fry (Radyr Comprhensive / Gloucester / England U18)
4 Joe Miles (Radyr Comprhensive / Scarlets / Wales U20)
5 Teddy Williams (Ysgol Glantaf / Cardiff Blues / Wales U20)
6 Ben Fry (Radyr Comprhensive / Dragons / Wales U20)
7 Jay Jones (Ysgol Plasmawr / Wales 7s)
8 Ben Roach (Llanishen HS / Dragons / Wales 7s)