49 seconds…that’s how long it took for rookie Alex Dombrandt to stamp his mark on Big Game 11, as Harlequins took on Wasps at Twickenham in a decisive match for both teams looking for a top 6 finish this season. Scoring the quickest try of the season and setting up the win for Quins, the “Dominator’ is rapidly making a name for himself, but could he force his way into the England world cup squad at this late stage of the process?
Even before the match the local prodigy was being talked up as an England candidate after stunning exploits in the back row. The blindside flanker stands 6ft 3in and weighs 18st 9lb, has now played ten games for the club he followed as a boy, starting nine times. He has now scored seven tries and is quickly becoming a Stoop favourite with his hard hitting runs, line breaks and superb off-loads. At only 21 he’s already took up a Welsh Under 20’s call up, due to a dispensation for students based (he’s studied at Cardiff Univ), which doesn’t rule him out of a for a full England call-up. The future looks bright.
So what’s his background? A hooker at first, Dombrandt strangely then spent several seasons at fly-half before switching to the pack after his teenage years. Quick footed, but not built like a tank, he was a natural back row player. I wonder if his time spent in the backs offered the grounding for his superb running and off-loads for Quins?
Paul Gustard has already commented on Dombrandt’s strengths and current potential weakness, ‘He’s fresh out of university and he’s still got a rig from university, but the kid can play rugby.’ I couldn’t agree more. He’s currently not Premiership fit in my opinion and some work is required in that area, however his frame is superb and you can imagine after 6-12 months at Quins, receiving the right nutrition advice, gym and exercises he’ll be a mobile beast of a player.
I’m a great believer that a successful World Cup Squad has at its core a group of hardened players who have been together through thick and thin for 4 years. However on the fringes of that squad you need new wildcards in the mix, which not only push the core players to excel and secure their starting place, but if needed can be called upon to mix up the game plan and present the opposition with something they haven’t planned for and change the speed and ferocity of the last 20 minutes. Dombrandt ticks that box.
International rugby is a brutally fast and physical game and Dombrandt has to put in some graft before he’s body is truly ready, however he’s got a window of opportunity and maybe, just maybe Eddie Jones is already making plans to see where the Dominator could fit into his 6 Nations plans.