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England’s new kid Alex Dombrandt aims to seize his chance on the Test series and prove the critics wrong

There will be new faces on the billboards around Twickenham this fall. A new generation of talent who had a chance to take over the revolution in England, and they could be here to stay.

Eddie Jones has selected one of his boldest squads yet, as he begins fine-tuning his squad for the 2023 World Cup.

He’s loaded with attacking talent, so break the tired old scripts because international rugby could get interesting again.

Alex Dombrandt is determined to make an impact and prove himself for England

Alex Dombrandt is determined to make an impact and prove himself for England

No 8 ALEX DOMBRANDT is one of the players who hopes to prove himself.

Our columnist Mike Brown spoke with his former Harlequins teammate about the exciting new chapter. Rugby correspondent NIK SIMON listened.

MIKE BROWN: I still remember you bowling in your first preseason session in 2018. A great man. Loose kit. It looked like he had won an award for spending the day training! Who would have thought you would be on the England team a few years later?

Dombrandt is eager to prove his critics wrong and is enjoying the fall international gatherings.

Dombrandt is eager to prove his critics wrong and is enjoying the fall international gatherings.

Dombrandt is eager to prove his critics wrong and is enjoying the fall international gatherings.

England coach Eddie Jones has selected one of his boldest teams as he weighs his options.

England coach Eddie Jones has selected one of his boldest teams as he weighs his options.

England coach Eddie Jones has selected one of his boldest teams as he weighs his options.

ALEX DOMBRANDT: I remember it well. Straight from the university, without knowing anyone. I was staying at the academy house and walked my first morning with no idea what to expect. When I walked through the front door, I realized that people were thinking, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’

BROWN: You were the size of a mattress! To be fair, as soon as you touched the ball we could see your skills. You just had a natural feel for the game. It reminded me of Nick Easter … he didn’t have the best gear either!

DOMBRANDT: It was definitely a wake-up call. I just had to lower my head and earn everyone’s respect. I think I did that. Even you eventually became my friend and gave me your number! However, they were all very welcoming. Lewis Boyce used to take me to Nando’s on our days off.

Dombrandt has come a long way since joining Harlequins and is ready to shine for England.

Dombrandt has come a long way since joining Harlequins and is ready to shine for England.

Dombrandt has come a long way since joining Harlequins and is ready to shine for England.

The 24-year-old will not settle for international matches and wants to become an England regular

The 24-year-old will not settle for international matches and wants to become an England regular

The 24-year-old will not settle for international matches and wants to become an England regular

BROWN: And a cheesecake! Seriously, congratulations on the call. You deserve it and I am very proud to see your career take off. Was playing for England always on your radar?

DOMBRANDT: It’s complicated. I saw guys like you and Danny Care playing for England on TV as a teenager and I was like, ‘Wow, that would be awesome. But professional rugby was not really an option for me at first. I enrolled at Cardiff Met University and my plan was probably to become a teacher.

During the cool year, you would go to sleep every night, go to the gym at 6.30am, and then go to conferences. A rugby career didn’t become a reality until much later. It is different for these young men from the academy because they always have a clear end goal. For me, the last few years have been a whirlwind. One thing led to another.

Getting my first cap in the summer was a dream come true. It was the icing on the cake of a special season, right after the best day of my life winning the league with Quins. But I don’t want to be one of those guys who settle for a few tapas. I want to go ahead and win as many as possible.

BROWN: I imagine there were some headaches among the guys from Quins when you showed up at England camp in the summer after winning the Premiership. As for the England team for the fall, there are many new faces. I like the balance. At number 8 is you, Sam Simmonds and Callum Chick. Young cubs. Chick has impressed me since I joined Newcastle. It is a true graft.

Dombrandt has a good connection to Marcus Smith, which could help his performances.

Dombrandt has a good connection to Marcus Smith, which could help his performances.

Dombrandt has a good connection to Marcus Smith, which could help his performances.

One thing that works in your favor is that you already have a relationship with Marcus Smith. You two are joined at the hip. Do you think that will work in your favor? It should give you an advantage in the selection.

DOMBRANDT: Marcus is one of my best friends. In the field, we know where the others are going to be. We spend a lot of time together outside the club. That helps with our game. His experience on the Lions tour has taken him to another level.

BROWN: In international rugby, you have to have your back. What do you offer about the other two guys?

DOMBRANDT: First of all, I just want to have a chance. Hopefully I can transfer what I’ve been doing for Quins. I bring that attacking side of my game, running lines, keeping the ball alive and unloaded.

In recent years, the defensive side of the game has always been a job for me. I’ve worked really hard on it. At the test level, it can’t be a nine out of 10 one week, then a four out of 10 the next. I want to show that I always do those performances.

BROWN: Your breakdown work has also improved. It must have been those drills he did on his asphalt driveway during closing. Next to the old Ford Fiesta… keeping it humble! It is one of the funniest videos I have ever seen. Your wife was holding on to a green resistance band and you dragged her everywhere. God knows what the neighbors thought!

DOMBRANDT: Do not remind me that!

BROWN: So is there a particular No8 you’re trying to shape your game on?

DOMBRANDT: Kieran Read is a player I admired a lot. The way he carries the ball and the way he unloads the ball. His game on all courts is great. Breakdown, defense, offense … it does it all. I try to steal bits and pieces of his game.

Former New Zealand star Kieran Read is a player Dombrandt seeks to learn from

Former New Zealand star Kieran Read is a player Dombrandt seeks to learn from

Former New Zealand star Kieran Read is a player Dombrandt seeks to learn from

BROWN: He’s up there with the iconic numbers 8. You might have a chance to line up against Duane Vermuelen if you’re selected against the Springboks. He is one of the most physical players I have ever faced. That would be a real opportunity for you to make a statement. However, first thing is Tonga next week. It is always a good unstructured game, it would be on your street. Some big islanders flying out of line to rip your head off!

DOMBRANDT: Playing against any of those teams is something that I would love. I want to show people what I am. Many people say I deserve to be on the team, but many others say they don’t think I can. I want to show people that I can do it.

BROWN: I wish you every success. And if all goes well, maybe you can indulge yourself with an update to that Ford Fiesta.

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