James Hook believes Wales fans should be excited by the emergence of Louis Rees-Zammit and says the wing wizard has the combination of pace and rugby brains to be a superstar.
Rees-Zammit has lit up the early stages of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations by scoring a spectacular, match-winning try in the Round 1 victory over Ireland before repeating the trick with a brilliant double in a Player of Match performance to help beat Scotland 25-24 last weekend.
The 20-year-old phenom has been a catalyst for a Wales side that won just two of their final nine Tests in 2020 but are now two from two in 2021.
His display against Scotland prompted pundits such as Jonathan Davies and Jeremy Guscott to declare that “a star has been born” but Wales’s record try-scorer Shane Williams warned Welsh fans on social media not to put the “weight of the country” on the youngster’s shoulders.
Vote for your Guinness Six Nations Player of Round 2
But Hook – who made 81 appearances for Wales between 2006 and 2015 and helped them win two Grand Slams in that time – claims the sky is the limit for Rees-Zammit’s talent and that there’s every reason for people to be enthused about what he could achieve.
“The way he glides is phenomenal, the frightening thing is he says he can get quicker,” Hook told BBC Radio Wales. “We don’t want to pile too much pressure on him but this is what sport is all about.
“You want people like him to stand up and take the game by the scruff of the neck. Why not get excited about him?
“This reminds me of George North’s first cap against South Africa [in 2010 when he scored two tries as an 18-year-old]. There was a massive buzz of excitement after that game and this feels exactly the same.
“Obviously he’s got phenomenal pace but he has a rugby brain to go with it. These games for Wales aren’t a flash in the pan, he’s been doing it for Gloucester for the last couple seasons.”
Having beaten two opponents who were reduced to 14 men in the opening rounds of this year’s Championship, Wales are still on track for a fifth Grand Slam in 16 years.
They were missing a number of key players through injury against Scotland, while coach Wayne Pivac replaced experienced half-back pairing Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar with Kieran Hardy and Callum Sheedy early in the second half at BT Murrayfield, to great effect.
Louis Rees-Zammit wins Guinness Six Nations Try of Round 2
They face a crunch clash against England in Round 3 following the upcoming rest week and Hook expects Pivac to continue with his tried-and-trusted half-backs despite the successful switch in Edinburgh.
“[Debutant centre] Willis Halaholo was very good when he came on and changing the half-backs was a massive call,” added Hook.
“I think Wayne Pivac will stick with Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies but, if things aren’t going to plan, he won’t wait until 70 minutes to change it.”