Brad Shields: Hurricanes captain requests to be released to play for England
Hurricanes captain Brad Shields looks set to tour South Africa with England in June after handing in a formal request to the New Zealand Rugby Union.
New Zealand-born Shields, who qualifies for England through his parents, will join Wasps later this year.
England head coach Eddie Jones sees the flanker as part of his plans going through to next year’s World Cup.
But the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) says it will make the final decision on 27-year-old Shields’ availability.
“We’ve only just this morning got a formal request to consider releasing Brad,” NZRU boss Steve Tew told the NZ Herald.
“He’s contracted to New Zealand until the end of Super Rugby [in August].”
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.
And the Rugby Football Union is prepared to sidestep its own policy of not picking players based overseas, given Shields has committed to an English club following the tour.
However, Tew believes this is a different case, and says the decision remains in the hands of the NZRU.
It is understood World Rugby would be prepared to get involved in any dispute that threatens the primacy of international rugby.
“The World Rugby regulations don’t apply per se because he’s committed himself to New Zealand,” said Tew.
“But he is a long-standing and loyal servant of the game and has put a request in.
“We’re looking at that and are considering the ramifications of releasing him to England in the middle of a competition he is committed to. We haven’t made a final decision yet.
“We’re not going to muck around. There’s no point in taking weeks when he and England need a decision faster than that.”
Injuries to England forwards Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes have hastened the need for reinforcements in the England back row, with Shields seen to fit the bill.
The 27-year-old helped Wellington 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.
Shields is now in a similar situation to Piers Francis, who played for England against Argentina last summer despite still being under contract to the Blues in Auckland, and before his move to Northampton.