Alex Dombrandt’s “real progression” in rugby intelligence has earned the Harlequins number eight his England debut, according to head coach Eddie Jones.
Dombrandt, Harry Wells, Dan Kelly and Adam Radwan will win their first caps when England host Canada at Twickenham on Saturday.
Boss Jones dished out 12 new caps in Sunday’s 43-29 win over the USA, the most in one match since 1947.
While England’s 12-strong British and Irish Lions contingent are away in South Africa, Jones is wasting no time in casting the net for the next generation of Test talent.
Dombrandt forced his way into Jones’ World Cup training squad in 2019 but could not quite make the cut for the tournament in Japan.
But Jones has seen the 24-year-old take big strides this term amid Harlequins’ Gallagher Premiership title-winning campaign.
“Well Alex was in our World Cup squad right up to the final cut, so we’ve been watching him with interest,” said Jones.
He's got unique running skills and he's improved the defensive part of his game, so he gets a great opportunity on Saturday to display those skillsEddie Jones
“I think his form this season with Harlequins has been a real progression in his game.
“He’s got unique running skills and he’s improved the defensive part of his game, so he gets a great opportunity on Saturday to display those skills.
“And obviously he has good combinations with Marcus Smith, which will help him.”
Dombrandt had to grind his way into Premiership rugby, having been unable to push through the usual academy route.
The bullish back-rower came to prominence while studying at the University of Wales Cardiff, and has not looked back once since seizing his chance with Quins.
Jones admitted Dombrandt’s lack of long-term top-level coaching exposure has meant he has had to graft hard to hone the finer points of number eight play.
“I think he’s continually learning about the game, number eight’s an important position in the team because he’s got to ensure you get go-forward when you haven’t got go-forward,” said Jones.
“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 number eight.
“Calum Chick did really well for us last week, so we’re looking forward to Alex to continue on in that eight jersey.”