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The teenage backline positions that hugely helped Alex Dombrandt

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Bardens/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Packing down at No8 for England and Harlequins is where Alex Dombrandt is developing his burgeoning reputation as a player to watch in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations but getting stuck into the rough and tumble wasn’t where the bulwark originally started out. We all know about his days in the trenches with Cardiff Met, that jaw-breaking three-year educational pathway even seeing him represent the Wales U20s against England in 2018.  

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However, when it comes to his subtle ball-handling skills, those attributes can be traced to the 24-year-old’s faraway days as a teenager long before he recognised he had the potential to make a career as a rugby player.   

“When I was younger I played a bit of fly-half and full-back, so maybe that has helped with some of ball-handling. That was at Warlingham rugby club, a club that Chris Robshaw also played for as well, and that was when I was about 12, 13.

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“But no, I will definitely leave that to the bigger boys,” said Dombrandt when quizzed on Tuesday about whether he would ever consider a run in midfield given how England boss Eddie Jones has a liking for developing hybrid players.  

Centre is a position definitely best left to someone like Manu Tuilagi, who is back in England’s plans following his return to the Test squad last week following an eleven-week winter layoff. “He is a massive boost. The experience that he has got with the boys, just the physical specimen that he is, it puts fear in opposition so to have him back has been a great boost for the boys.” 

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This Saturday, if selection goes a particular way for the round three Six Nations match at home to Wales, Dombrandt could be directly facing the fit-again Taulupe Faletau following his return to Wayne Pivac’s squad. 

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“He is a great player who has played loads of games for Wales. If selected it will be a great test for me to go up against him for sure. He is one of those No8s who have got a great all-court game. He is good in defence, very good in attack and I have watched him play a lot of games and picked up a few things from him so he is a great player. He has a great all-court game.”

How would Dombrandt currently describe his own game under Jones, the England coach who gave him his first Six Nations start away to Italy last time out having appeared off the bench in the round one game in Scotland?  

“For me, it is just trying to get my hands on the ball as much as possible. My work off the ball is just as important as on the ball. The more times I can get my hands on the ball the better and try and impose myself on the game really but I guess that comes first of all from the work I do off the ball. 

“I guess for me it is just trying to put myself in positions where I can get the ball in the shape, putting myself forward and I guess for me just trying to find those little pockets off Marcus (Smith) that I like to do as well. So just trying to find those spaces and link up with the boys.

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“I’m an attack-minded player but I am also aware at this level you need an all-court game. Your attack has to be good but also your defence has to be up there as well so I have been working hard on that aspect of my game as well to make sure they are on a level.

“We spend a lot of time together off the pitch,” added Dombrandt about his relationship with Smith, his England and Harlequins colleague. “We are great friends and that translates to what we do sometimes on the pitch as well. We understand each other’s game well and that hopefully transfers onto the pitch.”

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