One of rugby union’s brightest stars, Louis Rees-Zammit, has decided to leave the sport and pursue a career in the NFL, joining the league’s international player pathway, it was announced on Tuesday.

The announcement came just minutes before Wales announced their squad for the forthcoming Six Nations, one that Rees-Zammit would usually be a key part of. But moments before Warren Gatland announced his squad, Rees-Zammit announced on his Instagram account that he was stepping back from the sport to pursue his NFL dream.

Rees-Zammit, 22, is by far the biggest rugby star to try to crack NFL via the pathway, and he will journey to Florida at the end of the week to join the program.

“Gloucester Rugby has been a huge part of my life,” Rees-Zammit said on Instagram. “From the start at Hartpury College and my first professional rugby contract with Gloucester in 2020, to my Wales and Lions caps; the club has been central to my development as a player, and I’m so grateful for their support.

“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. Also, to my teammates, to [coach] George Skivington and [CEO] Alex Brown, thank you for giving me such special memories and for supporting this next stage of my career.