England World Cup bolter Alex Dombrandt almost gave the game up because of two ‘dreadful incidents’ during his three-year apprenticeship in Wales.
Twice a victim of gratuitous violence playing for Cardiff Met University in the Welsh championship, Dombrandt had his jaw broken twice by punches from behind. Surgeons implanted three steel plates to repair the shattering effects of the first blow, a double fracture.
“Both were shocking incidents,’’ Danny Milton, Cardiff Met University’s director of rugby, told The Rugby Paper. “Both cases went to court.
“The first incident happened against Glynneath after Alex had made a 50-yard break. He got punched from behind.
“It was a dreadful incident and it left him considering giving the game up. We sat down and talked about it.
“He found it mentally tough and I wasn’t sure he was going to come back. He’d had a gutsfull. There is probably still an element of violence which you don’t want to see in rugby.’’
The Championship match against Glynneath was in April 2016. Cardiff Crown court was told that Dombrandt ‘suddenly felt a violent impact on the right side of his face and felt excruciating pain. He fell to the ground with blood coming from his mouth.’’
His parents had travelled from Surrey to watch the game only to end up taking their son to hospital where he required an operation on a double fracture. Two pieces of hardware were put into the right side of his jaw, one into the left.
Jonathan Griffiths of Glynneath was given a ten-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay £2,000 in compensation after admitting a charge of grievous bodily harm.
Dombrandt was unable to attend university for three months. But after lengthy discussions with the rugby team, Dombrandt chose to continue.
“It made him a more resilient character,’’ says Milton. “To have bounced back the way he did was just fantastic.
“Alex is not an aggressive person. There isn’t a nasty bone in his body. He’s like a big cuddly teddy bear.”
Dombrandt suffered a second broken jaw, also against Glynneath, at the start of last season. Again it ended up in court but this time without a conviction.
A regular member of the Wales U20 team throughout the 2017 junior Six Nations, the Londoner turned down an offer to join Cardiff Blues from their then head coach, Danny Wilson.
“Alex’s parents were very keen for him to complete his education. The Harlequins offer came at a better time after he had done all the work for his degree in sport and physical education.
“They came in with a contract which would have been very hard to turn down. Alex was over the moon, not that he was thinking of international rugby at the time.
“He is English through and through. Whether he ever truly wanted to be Welsh, I’m not sure. As a Welsh university we are mad keen on driving the Welsh Exiles programme. Perhaps if we’d really gone for him there might have been a chance.
“You don’t have to be Welsh-qualified to play for Wales at U20 level. But you don’t play for the national U20’s unless you are going to consider committing to Wales. I would hope someone at the WRU had that conversation with Alex.’’
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