Brad Shields: New Zealand-born flanker released for England call-up

Brad Shields
Shields will join Premiership side Wasps during next season

England have called up Hurricanes captain Brad Shields for their tour of South Africa after New Zealand Rugby (NZR) released him from his contract.

NZR said there were "clear legal grounds" to oppose Shields' request, but allowed it "by special exception".

"Brad has been an exceptional leader inside the Hurricanes and a loyal servant to New Zealand Rugby," it said.

England head coach Eddie Jones sees the 27-year-old flanker as part of his plans up to next year's World Cup.

New Zealand-born Shields, who qualifies for England through his parents, will join Wasps later this year.

Under World Rugby rules, England are entitled to select Shields for the three-Test series against South Africa from 9-23 June.

Regulation nine is designed to ensure any player is released for international duty, providing he or she is willing and eligible.

NZR said he was not entitled to be released until the end of the Super Rugby season in August.

"We are extremely disappointed that the RFU chose to take this unusual step in seeking this release given that Brad has not yet played rugby in England," added NZR.

Shields helped Hurricanes to a Super Rugby title in 2016 and led the side to a draw against the British and Irish Lions last June.

He was part of the New Zealand Under-20s side that retained the Junior IRB World Championship title in 2011 but has never been capped by the All Blacks.

"I'm really appreciative that New Zealand Rugby has considered my request," said Shields.

"I know it's been a complex matter for them but I'm hugely grateful for their support on this."

Analysis

Chris Jones, BBC rugby union reporter

This has been a saga.

Eddie Jones has been in contact with Shields ever since he realised a) he was England qualified, b) he wanted to play for England and c) was on his way to Wasps in a few months so would be eligible.

New Zealand Rugby have dug their heels in up to a point but have now said he can go and play.

But there was a parting shot from New Zealand Rugby, querying why England maybe have to go outside of the Premiership to pick a player to go on tour.

So the two big beasts of world rugby are at loggerheads ahead of a crucial 18 months of rugby leading into the World Cup in Japan.

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