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Harlequins' take on 'unique' Dombrandt now thriving with England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Harlequins have had their say on seeing Alex Dombrandt thriving as the first-choice England No8 for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations a year after he rotated the jersey with Sam Simmonds. The Harlequins back-rower started just twice in the 2022 tournament, coming off the bench in the other three matches for Simmonds.

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However, he enjoyed three consecutive starts last month versus Scotland, Italy and Wales, exposure in stark contrast to how the rest of his 2022 played out. An injury cost him his Australian tour selection, paving the way for the then-out-of-favour Billy Vunipola to be recalled. The Saracens player went on to start six of the last seven matches England played before Eddie Jones was dismissed.

The naming of Steve Borthwick as England head coach, though, led to a selection rethink and Dombrandt has been a beneficiary, retaking the No8 jersey and so far making it his own despite some errors in the opening-round defeat to Scotland.

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He carried the ball for a total of 190 metres off 36 carries across his three appearances, and his handling skills were especially to the fore last weekend in Wales when making nine passes – including the assist for the opening Anthony Watson try.

It’s an all-action impact that has pleased Tabai Matson. “It’s really what the coach [Borthwick] sees in you,” said the Harlequins coach about the England Test selection now falling in favour of Dombrandt.

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“For us with our Quins lens on, he is unique I think. His skill set is phenomenal and so at the international level, having a loose forward that is super skilled is a point of difference in that loose forward trio because they are often big bangers up here. Week in and week out, he is offering try assists or scoring himself so he helps your scoreboard tick over.”

Some Welsh fans took issue with the score Dombrandt created at Principality Stadium for Anthony Watson, claiming that the try-assist pass was forward, but Test centurion referee Nigel Owens shot down those allegations.

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Speaking on his Whistle Watch programme, Owens said: “Some people asking was there a forward pass in the first try for England in Cardiff. No, it wasn’t. The pass wasn’t forward no matter how proud a Welshman you are. If you are trying to think that pass was forward let me tell you now it wasn’t. The pass was at the worst flat. I even think the pass was backwards and the pass is fine, so no forward pass.”

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Comments

1 Comment
l
lot 470 days ago

Is this talking about the current Englan 8? Please, his skill level is so average at international level, this description is about him.. did you proofread this article? he must be this good at club, definitely not test rugby.
For us with our Quins lens on, he is unique I think. His skill set is phenomenal and so at the international level, having a loose forward that is super skilled is a point of difference in that loose forward trio because they are often big bangers up here. Week in and week out, he is offering try assists or scoring himself so he helps your scoreboard tick over.

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