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The Dombrandt X-factor: 'He is almost Welsh in the way he plays'

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Adam Jones believes Alex Dombrandt has the X-factor needed to become one of the best players in the world after the England No8 signed a new long term deal with Harlequins. Dombrandt joined Quins from Cardiff Met University ahead of the 2018/19 season with what then head of rugby Paul Gustard described as a “university rig”, but he has since changed his body shape to become an international player. 

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Capped four times by England, the Croydon-born 24-year-old has made 87 appearances for his club and has scored 200 points, including eleven tries in his debut season. The news that Dombrandt has now re-committed to Harlequins for the foreseeable future greatly enthused ex-Wales prop Jones, the Harlequins scrum coach.

“It is brilliant news. He obviously came from Cardiff Met, hadn’t had any academy time, played for Wales U20s. The way he has gone over the last few years has been brilliant. It’s amazing the fact he has turned into a leader, captained the team when Stephan (Lewies) hasn’t been playing, which shows the respect he has and the sort of individual he is really. He is that good, that well thought of and well respected that within three years he is captaining the team.

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“He is a great kid, such a good bloke, a brilliant, unbelievable player. Some of the stuff he can do, he is almost Welsh in the way he plays. He is such a good player, he deserves it. We want to keep these boys here. He’s a local lad, supported Quins, so that is a massive driver for him and a massive driver for us really. When you have someone who loves the club, they want to put everything into it.

“He is only going to do bigger and better things. He has only been a professional for three or four years, has a lot of growing to do. Imagine what he is going to be like in a couple of years’ time, with a few years with England as well hopefully. Touchwood, he will be up there with the best in the world.

“It was obvious watching the videos. You saw him playing for Cardiff Met, you could see he was good at rugby and that he loved his time in Cardiff as well. During the first couple of training sessions, we didn’t know much about him. He was one of those guys who when he played you thought, ‘S***, how good is this kid?’ One of those. 

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“He scored eleven tries maybe in his first season and he is the top try-scoring Quins forward in history but in a quarter of the games, overtaking Nick Easter. He is a bit of a phenomenon, really. Hopefully, we are going to get the best years of him, which is brilliant for Quins. He is only going to get better.

“There are good No 8s in England, aren’t there. They obviously went down the Tom Curry way in the autumn, horses for courses I guess. Alex has done well when he has played for England. There is a fair bit of competition with Sam Simmonds, Curry, Billy Vunipola still knocking about the place and playing well for Sarries.

“I don’t think anyone has a God-given right to play for their country. Alex has things to work on from Eddie Jones, from us, but what he does bring is that X-factor, pulling a rabbit out of a hat really. There are not many players over the history of the game who have that. The players I played with, there are not many who were not doing much and then all of a sudden they score, Shane Williams maybe. Alex is a talent and it is exciting for the club.”

It was last year in a RugbyPass interview when Dombrandt reflected at length on his university years in Cardiff before joining Harlequins and he now returns to that Welsh city next weekend for a Champions Cup battle on an artificial pitch against a home side looking different from the team that lost 43-17 in December in London when a large contingent of their regular players were hit by Covid quarantine regulations.

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“It’s the old England versus Wales game between the two capital city clubs and while they didn’t have a great result up in Edinburgh, they haven’t had much rugby together (due to quarantine) to be fair as a unit,” reckoned Jones. “They will want to have a crack at the English champions and we will match it. They have a lot of internationals in their team and when these big games come along they raise their game.”

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