I, like the majority, was looking forward to Brad Shields fitting into his new home at Wasps and settling into Northern Hemisphere ways, both in life and rugby and then with the possibility of him playing rugby for the country in the Autumn Internationals.
When he got fast-tracked into the England squad ahead of their series tour against South Africa I was slightly sceptical but given the little selection of flankers, Eddie Jones has chosen I was optimistic, however, having reflected on his inclusion into the summer squad my views on the matter have changed.
World Rugby rules state that a player can play for their ‘country’ given that the abide by one of the three options and Shields qualifies for an England shirt via option two with both his parents being born in England before they emigrated to New Zealand whilst they were both in their childhood.Embed from Getty Images
The RFU however, adopted an overseas player’s policy that was put under place to ensure that English talent was kept in the premiership to avoid the best players playing rugby outside the country, consequently meaning that the England eligibility rules state that Jones can only select players that are based in England and can only select a player playing overseas in exceptional circumstances (the main circumstance being that there are no players in England that could play the position needed by the foreign-based player).
So, there should be no problem with Jones selecting Shields due to him being based at Wasps at the start of the new season. However, the Super-Rugby season in the southern hemisphere is yet to finish and following the tour to South Africa, Shields will fly over 7,000 miles back to New Zealand to see out the season as captain of the Highlanders. So technically he isn’t yet based in England.
The RFU governing body is now under fire for selecting Shields for the summer tour and Vice Chairman of World Rugby, Agustin Pichot claimed that “the game is losing something” by the selection of Shields.
Shields was never capped by the All Blacks but featured in the junior IRB championship in 2011 and played against some of his now England teammates. But All Black head coach Steve Hansen earlier this month said that Shields would have probably been selected for New Zealand had he not pledged his international future overseas.Embed from Getty Images
With Shields, only being in the England squad just six days before he is set to make his debut it is hard to believe that the New Zealander can full be aware of the core values to English rugby and whether Eddie Jones has also fully understood the essence of English rugby.
Shields’ performance this summer with either be the perfect fit for the national side or be a repeat of the Sam Burgess saga.