Bristol and Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy says Louis Rees-Zammit’s call-up to the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa goes to show how quickly the 20-year-old has impressed during a “rollercoaster” season and bodes well for the future of Welsh rugby.
Sheedy, who is also enjoying an explosive year having helped Wales to a Six Nations title in the spring, while also pulling the strings for Bristol Bears at the top of the English Premiership, has tipped his fellow Welshman to “tear it up” this summer.
“Louis is a top boy,” Sheedy said. “I’ll be honest, playing with him in the autumn, I knew that he was going to be world class, but I perhaps didn’t realise how quickly he was going to become world class.
“Just in terms of the improvement between the autumn and the Six Nations, I genuinely don’t see many weaknesses in his game. He’s fast, he’s excellent under the high ball, and he has been working loads on his kicking game.
“He has got the mentality that he wants to be the best. He’s hungry and he wants to learn. I don’t see why he can’t go out [to South Africa] and tear it up for the Lions because, forgetting his age, he was comfortably the best winger during the Six Nations.
Superb stuff from the Bears 🔥— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) March 1, 2020
Callum Sheedy right on the spot with his crossfield kick to Alapati Leiua! 👏 pic.twitter.com/0Al7CM7gxu
“I’m sure his mentality will be to go out there to start [the tests] and to go on the attack. I really hope he goes and does well.”
Sheedy, who made his Wales debut off the bench versus Ireland during last year’s Autumn Nations Cup, was also delighted by the Lions call-up for Wales stalwart Dan Biggar, who he says has been instrumental in his own development since joining the Welsh camp and hopes to follow in the fly-half’s footsteps.
“The Welsh 10 jersey has so much history,” Sheedy continued. “During the Six Nations, Dan Biggar was fantastic, not only on the pitch, but off the pitch with me, and I can’t speak of him highly enough. You hope that he will go on the Lions tour and start [in the test team] because he deserves it.”
Meanwhile, Sheedy acknowledges the omission of England tight-head prop Kyle Sinkler from Warren Gatland’s 37-man squad as a “shock”, having pegged the fellow Bristolian as a “nailed on” for the Lions touring party – though praised the resolve of his team-mate, who he says has taken the disappointment in his stride.
In his own words, the fly-half claims it has been a season of “ups and downs” and, despite enjoying success internationally, has also left more to be desired after tasting the disappointment of Bristol’s European Champions Cup exit away to Bordeaux Bègels last month. With the Six Nations behind him, Sheedy’s says the focus is now solely on bringing the domestic title to the city.
“It’s been a strange one,” Sheedy says, “especially when you look back to the Autumn Nations Cup and the start of the season. Although I was happy to play for Wales, personally, the team didn’t perform great and you wonder whether you’ll get another chance. Coming back to Bristol, I probably wasn’t playing as well or consistently as I wanted to at the time.
“For me, winning the Six Nations was great and, coming into Bristol after that, we were starting to get a few good wins, but to lose in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, that was probably one of the most disappointing and frustrating games of my life, in terms of how we lost it, having been in a position to win.
“I’m sure, when I look back in a couple of years’ time, it will be one of the fondest seasons of my life, having won the Six Nations, being top of the Premiership at the moment, and playing my 100th game for Bristol in amongst that. It has been a rollercoaster coming into the business end of the season. I hope we can accelerate and hopefully get a trophy.”
Now into his seventh season with Bristol, Sheedy believes the team has developed a steely mentality since the arrival of the club’s director of rugby Pat Lam in 2016 and has already bore fruit having led the Bears to the European Challenge Cup title last season.
Going on his own experience, Sheedy believes that their recent success is a direct result of the “lows” he and the team have endured over the years. Having dropped out of the Premiership in 2017 before bouncing back a year later, he says Lam has brought “a vision and will to succeed” to the Bears’ makeup.
“Pat came in with a vision and a goal, a drive and a will to succeed,” he said. “That’s probably something that we lacked before. We’ve since gone from strength to strength. I’m very proud to have been at the club for so long, and it means that, when you experience the low points, you can really appreciate the high points that we are in now.
“Pat is definitely the driver of this,” Sheedy continued. “No matter what the result is at the weekend, as a squad, we will always review that game on a Monday as if we’ve lost.
“There’s always some sort of learnings you can take. I suppose that’s also on a personal perspective. As much as I would like to, I don’t think I will ever have the ‘perfect’ game, because I am my biggest critic. Again, that’s Pat’s mentality and has definitely rubbed off on me.”