The Gloucester Rugby Academy has produced a long line of talent including the likes of Jonny May, Ollie Thorley and Henry Trinder who are some of the best attacking players in the country.
However, there is a new crop of skilful stars that have come through the pathway and their rise to the top has been as fast as some of the try scoring runs they have made in the incredible starts they have had to their rugby careers.
Louis Rees-Zammit and Stephen Varney are two of the most exciting players in the sport at the moment and they have taken the rugby world by storm over the past 12 months and will both represent their countries in the Autumn Nations Cup when Wales host Italy this Saturday.
Rees-Zammit starts on the wing and will be hoping to show his innate try scoring ability which saw him dot down 10 times in last year’s Gallagher Premiership season. He scored in his first start for Wales against Georgia and is making the shirt his own as it’ll be his third consecutive start for his country.
Stephen Varney will make his first international start as Italy face Wales this weekend. Varney has been successful in his own right and usually performs well when playing against Wales! It was a February evening early on in the year which saw the young scrum-half put on a masterclass for the Italian U20 side against the country of his birth. He caught the eye of the Italy first team and the performance also led to him being involved more and more with the Gloucester Rugby first team.
It wasn’t long ago that they were both playing for the Gloucester Rugby Academy sides, but it was clear early on, that through the hard work and determination, these two were destined for the big stage. They played a key role in the successful U18 Premiership Academy League season which saw the team reach the final of the competition where they were pipped by a strong Leicester Tigers side 31-34. Rees-Zammit went over for two tries in that game with Varney also scoring himself and it was easy to see that these were two players who would have the ability to kick on.
They started training with the first team squad and when given their opportunities they tore things up and their talent was quickly spotted by the international selectors.
A number of those U18 finalists have gone on to play for Gloucester Rugby with Jack Clement, Josh Gray, Joe Howard, Ethan Hunt and George Barton all being called up to the first team squad.
It’s not the first time that Rees-Zammit and Varney have played against each other in their international jerseys. The last time was in the U18 Six Nations competition back in 2019. Varney scored two tries for Italy in the final game of the festival against Wales at Kingsholm of all places!
The Gloucester Rugby production line is strong and Varney and Rees-Zammit are proof of the success of the Academy programme. It will be different from when the two used to play against each other at U18 level but they will be out to impress and will do Gloucester Rugby proud.