New Zealand release Shields for England duty

New Zealand release Shields for England duty

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

The 27-year-old, who is eligible for England courtesy of his parents, was not entitled to demand a release for this June's global window, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said.

Speaking to TVNZ, he said: 'We're disappointed to have found ourselves in the position to receive a release request from English Rugby, but we have tried to put the athlete at the centre of our decision making and do the right thing by Brad.

NZR's head of professional rugby, Chris Lendrum, essentially said that they were releasing Shields as he has been a "loyal servant" to New Zealand Rugby.

"With 20 players unavailable for the trip either through injury or because they are being rested and Billy Vunipola still feeling his way back for Saracens, there are a limited number of experienced ball-carrying back-rowers still standing, and the 27-year-old Shields unquestionably fits the bill on that front".

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"We have taken some time to carefully work through the complexities of this request, to ensure that we gave appropriate consideration to his specific circumstances".

The Hurricanes lead the Crusaders by three points in the New Zealand conference, having played a match fewer than the reigning champions, who would be expected to return to the top after they host the Waratahs on Saturday.

A typically combative and mobile New Zealand loose forward, Shields won the 2016 Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes and helped them to a draw with the British and Irish Lions past year.

"I guess it's a pretty tricky situation", said Shields.

Jones is keen to have him available for the summer tour of South Africa and the player has been included in the 34-man squad.

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