FANS and pundits all over the world have been left shocked after Louis Rees-Zammit announced he was quitting rugby union to pursue a career in the NFL. 

The Welsh winger revealed on Tuesday (January 16) that he has accepted an invitation to join the NFL International Player Pathway (IPP) in the pursuit of earning a spot on a roster in 2024.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), Rees-Zammit said: "I would like to take this opportunity to announce a significant career decision that I have taken after careful consideration.

"In a move that I am extremely excited about, I can confirm that I will be joining the NFL's International Player Pathway (IPP) in pursuit of earning a spot on an NFL roster in the United States for 2024.

"Opting to step away from international rugby on the eve of the Six Nations has been a painstaking decision, but I am extremely excited to take up a once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue a new challenge.

"My immense gratitude also goes to Glouster Rugby - a club that is extremely close to my heart - and particularly George Skivington and Alex Brown, for allowing me to head in a different direction over the next few weeks.

"Although this decision may come as a surprise, I would like to reiterate that this does not necessarily mean I am retiring from rugby, but rather at this age and stage of my life, I am excited to explore a unique challenge that has the potential to diversify my skill set.

"My best wishes go out to Wales for the upcoming Six Nations and year ahead, while I will continue to closely follow the continued progress of Glouster from afar.

"To all my followers, fans and family, I thank you for your support, and look forward to having your backing throughout this next chapter."

The 22-year-old made 32 appearances for Wales at international level and was also part of the most recent British and Irish Lions squad back in 2021 that toured South Africa.

Rees-Zammit will leave the UK for Florida this week to begin the IPP programme.

Rugby fans and pundits react to Louis Rees-Zammit's decision to join NFL pathway

Wales coach, Warren Gatland, revealed his Six Nations squad today and admitted Rees-Zammit's decision had come as a shock.

He is not alone, with fans taking to social media to share their thoughts on Rees-Zammit's decision to step away from Rugby Union to pursue an NFL career.

Squidge Rigby on X said: "We might have topped the Tipuric/AWJ double retirement for most shocking, surprising, bizarre hour for Welsh Rugby ever."

A fan commenting on the account said: "I would of understood this if he had done this 3 or 4yrs ago but it’s going to be hard now.

"Transferable skills for his position (WR,CB) are mixed and he’s up against elite athletes who have been doing this longer. The knowledge required at WR/CB will be a lot for him."

Another added: "one of the most genuine, out-loud, WTFs i've ever delivered in my life."

While others took to the Welsh winger's X account, commenting on his statement post with a combination of disbelief and well wishes.

Barry And District News: See what fans had to say about Louis Rees-Zammit's decision to step away from rugby union.See what fans had to say about Louis Rees-Zammit's decision to step away from rugby union. (Image: PA)

One person commented: "Wow, what a shock! Good luck sir."

Another added: "Nnooo, im gutted but go for it louis, pwb luc from wales, go for it."

A third person commented: "This is massive. The odds are hugely stacked against him, but I really hope he makes it.

"I love to see him play #rugby for #Wales, but it would be incredible to see him play in the #NFL. What an opportunity."

Welsh Rugby Union simply commented: "Pob lwc Zam!"

Rees-Zammit's girlfriend - influencer and former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Saffron Barker - also seemed happy about his decision posting his statement on her Instagram story with clapping and love heart emojis.