The return of Alex Dombrandt has largely been hailed by England fans on Twitter.
England suffered their first casualty of the World Cup training camp, with Brad Shields returning home from the warm weather training camp in Italy to have a foot ligament injury assessed.
In the Wasps flanker’s place comes Harlequins’ uncapped Alex Dombrandt, who has surged into the reckoning this year after a monumental debut season in London.
The 22-year-old had been tipped as one of the World Cup bolters, and his performance against the Barbarians for England only helped his cause. His omission from the squad in early July came as a surprise to some, with Eddie Jones opting for Northampton Saints’ Lewis Ludlam instead.
But Dombrandt now has his chance to impress, and there are many England fans on social media that are happy to see him in the squad. The loose forward offers something different to Shields, as he is a bruising ball carrier who is capable of playing as a number eight. The concern of many fans when the squad was announced was the lack of cover for Billy Vunipola, with Shields and Mark Wilson serving as back-up number eights.
However, Dombrandt perhaps is more adept at the back of the scrum and can make more damage in contact.
The consensus seems to be that the fans do not think that this replacement is weakening the squad in any way, if anything it is improving it. Shields has not truly won over all England fans since making his debut last year against South Africa after moving from the Hurricanes in New Zealand. During his time in Super Rugby he proved what a class operator he is and how well-rounded he is as a player. But purely based on form last season, Dombrandt probably had the better campaign for Quins.
Additionally, many feel that Wilson will wear the six shirt for England in the World Cup, or at least the big games, meaning the spot for Shields/ Dombrandt would be on the bench. If so, the Harlequin is the fans’ pick, as he would provide the greater impact in the closing stages of the game. Like Chris Robshaw, Shields is not necessarily an impact player, rather one that consistently stands out over the course of 80 minutes.
While no one would wish an injury upon any player, England fans are taking the positives out of this one.
This is what has been said:
Dombrandit offers more, better ball carrier than shields. More potential than shields.
— James Warren (@James_Warren6) July 25, 2019
Fans have also spared a thought for Robshaw, who would have been in contention for a call-up as well to replace Shields, particularly being the most like-for-like player. Then again, despite a decent campaign for Robshaw, Dombrandt still probably shaded his teammate, and while Robshaw is a 66-cap veteran, Jones has clearly gone for form over experience here.
Ultimately this may prove academic as Shields’ injury may not be as bad as some fear, but the door has been opened for Dombrandt to earn a place on the plane to Japan, and he has the backing of a lot of fans to take it.
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