Chris Robshaw knows what it takes to win over Eddie Jones and is backing Harlequins No8 Alex Dombrandt to convince the England head coach he deserves a first cap in this autumn’s series of Test matches.

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Dombrandt is currently training under the watchful eye of Jones at the Lensbury and will be expected to wear the No8 jersey for the non-cap match with the Barbarians at Twickenham on October 25, a game that will see Robshaw lining up for the most famous invitational club team in the world in his final game in the UK.

Robshaw played his 300th and final Harlequins game against Leicester alongside Dombrandt and will now get the chance to see just how difficult it is to shackle a powerful ball-carrying alternative to Billy Vunipola and Tom Curry, the Sale openside who has been used at No8 by Jones. 

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The England boss has very strong views that can be difficult to change, although Robshaw achieved that significant feat after the former Australia and Japan coach called him a “club player” during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the tournament that became the low point of the flanker’s career. 

Robshaw was captain as England failed to get out of their group but the following year he was part of the 2016 Grand Slam-winning team that Jones had assembled in his first year in charge.

Four years later, Dombrandt not only has to win over Jones but he also has to impress while up against a raft of outstanding young back row talent all desperate to break up the World Cup trio of Sam Underhill, Curry and Vunipola. What Dombrandt brings to the table is ball carrying, a lineout option plus a try-scoring instinct, and he has also proved to be an impact player off the replacements bench for Quins.

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Having handed over the key to his Harlequins locker at their Surrey training base to Dombrandt as he cleared out his things, Robshaw has seen the No8 transform what club boss Paul Gustard called a “university rig” into a body capable of making an impact at any level of the sport.

Robshaw, who captained England 43 times in his 66 Test outings, will join the San Diego Legion in the USA’s Major League Rugby competition in January and is relishing one more game at Twickenham – even if there won’t be a crowd to mark his farewell. 

He told RugbyPass: “It’s great to have a Twickenham send off and I had a joke with Alex about the chance of playing against him for the Barbarians… I gave my locker at Quins to Alex. I thought it would be in good hands. It’s special to get the chance to play against your friends and Alex does have real pace and since lockdown, he has transformed his body. We knew about his attacking ability and handling and he is picking fantastic lines.

“We can all praise players but at the end of the day, it is down to one man’s opinion that matters. If you want to play for England and that is Eddie. I hope Alex gets his opportunity and if he does I’m sure he will be ready for it.

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“Alex needs to continue to work hard and be patient because it can be frustrating when you’re in and out of squads, so you must take every opportunity with both hands. Alex is ready but it’s one thing me saying that – it’s up to Eddie. For me, it was about performing every week and for Alex, he is up against pretty stiff competition every week in the Premiership and the talent and depth available to England is pretty phenomenal.

“You can probably pick ten players and put them in an England shirt in the back row and they would deliver, and that is a very fortunate position. You have these waves in certain positions and the back row is now where we have so many players under 25 and there is so much talent.”

Despite heading to San Diego, Robshaw will not be getting away from Jones who has agreed to work as a consultant to Legion in the MLR. He added: “Eddie will be great for the club and also the league. I don’t know how much time that will involve or if he will be sending training plans and all that sort of stuff. He will be fantastic.”

Robshaw’s appearance for the Barbarians will be his 32nd in a season disfigured by Covid-19 – that equals the highest number of matches he has ever played in a season. By opting to continue his career in San Diego, Robshaw will play a maximum of 16 games in a squad that also will include Blitzbok sevens legend Cecil Afrika. 

Instead of heading home to South London after Quins training, Robshaw will be able to use the surfboard his new employers have had specially made to mark his arrival in the USA. “They do their recovery on the beach,” explained Robshaw.

“That will be very different from an ice bath in a wheelie bin. There is a group of players who surf and it’s certainly different from life in London. There are a lot of Pacific Island boys in the MLR along with really talented athletes and the league is continuing to grow. Playing a maximum of 16 games is fantastic when you talk about the load on players.”

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