Currently running Bahrain before his planned switch to become Exeter’s senior academy coach, Tonkin highlights the impact Alex Dombrandt has made in the Gallagher Premiership with Harlequins as an example of the ready-made players the Welsh are potentially losing out on.
Dombrandt attended university in Wales for three years and represented the Welsh under-20s before joining Harlequins last summer. That move resulted in him being named in the Premiership’s Dream Team of the Year and impressing for England in their end-of-season win over the Barbarians at Twickenham.
“They’re like academies now,” claimed Tonkin about the university pathway in an interview on talkingrugbyunion.co.uk. “They have an extra 10 or 12 academies in the UK that are churning out professional players.
“Look at some of the guys that are coming out of Cardiff Met, guys like Alex Dombrandt, who are coming out of university physically ready to play professional rugby,” continued the coach who cut his teeth in his native Wales and was the head of rugby at Cardiff University prior to his move to the Middle East.
— Talking Rugby Union (@TalkRugbyUnion) June 12, 2019
With Swansea University set to follow Cardiff’s lead and join the BUCS league next season, Tonkin wants the WRU to recognise the universities as a way to develop players for senior professional rugby which hasn’t been the case.
“It was made very clear to us that while BUCS was a big part of the English rugby pathway, it wasn’t part of the Welsh Rugby Union’s pathway. I hope for the three big universities in that league, the WRU will wake up and start to invest in them a little bit because they are on an unfair playing field, unfortunately.”
Fresh from winning his first West Asia Premiership title after leaving the UK in 2016, the 36-year-old Tonkin said the opportunity to now work with Exeter was too good to turn down.
“I have respected what they have done from the very beginning. When they got promoted from the Championship years ago, the way that they did that, kept their squad together and recruited really well.
— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) June 10, 2019
“I just respect their values. From the outside looking in, it all looked very impressive and when I went there for my interview, I was blown away by the professionalism of it all.”
WATCH: Part one of The Academy, the six-part RugbyPass documentary series on how Leicester Tigers develop their players
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