(Reuters) - World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot has questioned England’s selection of New Zealand-born forward Brad Shields for their tour of South Africa this month.
Shields qualifies for England through his parents but was born and raised in New Zealand and played all his rugby there, captaining Super Rugby side the Wellington Hurricanes and representing the country at under-20 level.
“Something is missing,” former Argentina captain Pichot wrote on Twitter in Spanish above a picture of Shields in an England jersey, adding in English: “We are losing something, the game is losing something.”
In response to a reply from media pundit Stuart Barnes, a Wales schoolboy captain who went on to play for England, Pichot said comparing the Shields case to Pacific Islanders representing the All Blacks did not negate the criticism.
“Two things wrong don’t make one right ... it depends in each case and how many years you have lived and love the country and jersey you are representing,” Pichot added.
“(How) can we measure that? By parents? Grandparents? Years? Very difficult.”
The 43-year-old’s platform for election to a senior role at World Rugby in 2016 included a commitment to lengthen the residential qualification for players who want to switch national allegiance.
“When you have players who haven’t lived in the country that they represent, it’s not great,” the former Argentine captain said when he took up the role.
“I think it is very important to keep the identity of our national teams ... having on your team players who have not lived (for long) in the country they are (representing) I think it’s not right.”
England’s former World Cup winning-coach Clive Woodward also questioned the Shields move in his column for the Daily Mail last month, saying it made “zero sense”.
Woodward said that fast-tracking Shields into the squad was “intrinsically wrong” and a “slap in the face” for other English players who are unable to play for their country while contracted to foreign clubs.
While Shield will return to the Hurricanes after the June international break, the 27-year-old has signed a contract with Premiership side Wasps and will join the team in September.
England play three tests against South Africa, the first of which takes place in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney