England have spoken to Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit in a bold move over the Welshman’s international future.
The Rugby Paper understands England’s initiative came from the very top, a personal call from head coach Eddie Jones following an initial approach by England team manager, Richard Hill.
The revelation will give Wales still more reason to reward the 18-year-old with a place in their Six Nations squad.
Rees-Zammit, born in Cardiff to Welsh parents, has always wanted to play for Wales. His grandfather, Joe Zammit is a British passport holder who lives in Liverpool.
The RFU will no doubt be going through the complex eligibility laws with a fine tooth comb to see if that gives them any claim to Zammit’s grandson.
Jones’ conversations with Rees-Zammit are understood to have taken place before the 6ft 3in, 14st left wing scored five tries in two matches against Worc-ester and Northampton.
He left Cardiff Blues’ Academy more than two years ago to accept a scholarship at Hartpury College near Gloucester and made his Gloucester debut last season in a second-team match.
He will be 19 the day after Wales start the defence of their Grand Slam, against Italy in Cardiff on February 1. If by then Rees-Zammit has been included in the Wales squad but excluded from the final 23, he would still be a free agent.
Almost 20 years ago, Wales head coach Graham Henry included an English wing with a famous surname, Liam Botham, in their Six Nations squad despite the fact that he was still in the process of completing his residential qualification. Henry’s bold attempt to capture Botham alerted Clive Woodward who wasted no time including the Englishman in the 2000 summer tour of South Africa.
Despite two non-Test appearances, Botham remained uncapped, by Wales and England.
Leigh Halfpenny is to be offered a new contract by the Scarlets in support of assurances that he still has a future at the region despite Liam Williams’ return from Saracens next season. “We love Leigh,’’ a Scarlets’ spokesman said. “He’s a fantastic player and a great guy.’’
The 31-year-old Test Lion is on course to reclaim the full-back position he lost during the World Cup because of persisting doubts over Williams recovering in time from an ankle injury.