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Wales star Rees-Zammit steps away from rugby to pursue NFL career

Wales international Louis Rees-Zammit has announced he will step away from rugby union to pursue a career in the NFL, with the 22-year-old set to join the league’s international player pathway programme.

The 22-year-old wing made the announcement shortly before Warren Gatland named his Wales squad for the Six Nations, which begins in early February.

Rees-Zammit has emerged as a key player since making his Wales debut against France in 2020, winning 31 caps and scoring 14 tries for his country.

Five of those tries came at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, where Wales suffered a quarter-final defeat against Argentina.

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Premiership side Gloucester confirmed they had agreed to release Rees-Zammit from his contract, with the club’s chief executive Alex Brown saying: “We understand the size of the opportunity before Zam and his lifelong ambition to play in the NFL.”

Rees-Zammit said: “Gloucester Rugby has been a huge part of my life. I will always be very proud of my time at Kingsholm and want to particularly thank the incredible fans who make the club so special.

“I have had the incredible honour of playing rugby for my country which, as a proud Welshman, I’ve never taken for granted.

“However, I believe that this is the right time for me to realise another professional goal of playing American football in the US. Those opportunities don’t come around very often.”

Rees-Zammit becomes easily the most high-profile rugby star to attempt the transition to American football, with the likes of Christian Wade and Christian Scotland-Williamson previously signing for NFL franchises but failing to appear in a single regular-season game.

The international player pathway began in 2017 and offers athletes from across the globe the opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster.

Success stories from the programme include the Philadelphia Eagles’ Australian tackle Jordan Mailata and Las Vegas Raiders fullback Jakob Johnson, who previously played American football in his native Germany.

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