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Dombrandt’s progress rewarded with England cap vs Canada

July 8, 2021 GMT

LONDON (AP) — No. 8 Alex Dombrandt has impressed England coach Eddie Jones with how far he’s come.

Dombrandt was in Jones’ training squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, scoring two tries in a non-cap match against the Barbarians, and will finally make a capped England debut on Saturday against Canada at Twickenham.

Without playing any representative rugby or going through an academy, his career didn’t take off until he went to university in Wales and was picked for Wales Under-20s in 2017, qualifying as a resident student.

He signed with Harlequins club in 2018 and a combination of brutal form and professional coaching has culminated in him starring in Quins’ stunning run to the Premiership title two weeks ago.

Jones believed Dombrandt’s lack of long-term top-level coaching exposure has meant he has had to graft to hone the finer points of No. 8 play.

“I think he’s continually learning about the game,” Jones said.

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“No. 8′s an important position in the team because he’s got to ensure you get go-forward when you haven’t got go-forward. And he’s got to stop the opposition when they are going forward.

“They have got to be a good reader of the game, and given his probably light rugby experience before Harlequins, he’s had to work really hard to read the game and be an effective No. 8.

“Callum Chick did really well for us last week, so we’re looking forward to Alex to continue on.”

In beating the United States 43-29 last weekend, Jones gave 12 players their debut -- the most by England since 1947 -- but this week only four: Dombrandt, lock Harry Wells, midfielder Dan Kelly, and wing Adam Radwan.

“We’d be delighted if we got four or five of these guys to come through but maybe we can get more,” Jones said. “That’s the target, to discover talent that makes the squad so competitive that every player in England, if they want to get in the England squad, have to be operating close to full throttle and be moving towards that all the time.”

Canada, beaten by Wales 68-12 in Cardiff, made just three changes.

Reegan O’Gorman was moved from blindside flanker to lock in place of the injured Josh Larsen, Cory Thomas filled the vacancy, and in the only backline change, Lachlan Kratz will debut at center. Reserve loosehead prop Liam Murray could also make his first appearance.

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Lineups:

England: Freddie Steward, Joe Cokanasiga, Henry Slade, Dan Kelly, Adam Radwan, Marcus Smith, Harry Randall; Alex Dombrandt, Sam Underhill, Lewis Ludlow (captain), Charlie Ewels, Harry Wells, Joe Heyes, Jamie Blamire, Ellis Genge. Reserves: Curtis Langdon, Beno Obano, Paul Hill, Callum Chick, Lewis Ludlam, Dan Robson, George Furbank, Joe Marchant.

Canada: Cooper Coats, Cole Davis, Ben LeSage, Lachlan Kratz, Kainoa Lloyd, Peter Nelson, Ross Braude; Siaki Vikilani, Lucas Rumball (captain), Corey Thomas, Conor Keys, Reegan O’Gorman, Jake Ilnicki, Andrew Quattrin, Djustice Sears-Duru. Reserves: Eric Howard, Cole Keith, Liam Murray, Donald Carson, Michael Smith, Quinn Ngawati, William Percillier, Robbie Povey.

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