April 26, 2018 / 5:37 AM / a year ago

Rugby - Shields still waiting to hear on England decision

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Brad Shields has heard nothing about a potential release to play for Eddie Jones’ England side if selected for their tour of South Africa in June, the Wellington Hurricanes captain said on Thursday.

The 27-year-old has become the subject of a tug-of-war between New Zealand and England, with the loose forward heading to English club Wasps at the end of the Super Rugby season.

The New Zealand-born Shields qualifies for England through his parents and has been touted as a potential callup for their series in South Africa, despite it being highly likely he will be required for the Hurricanes after the international window.

“I haven’t heard anything yet,” Shields told reporters in Wellington ahead of the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby match against Japan’s Sunwolves on Friday.

“It’s out of my control and my focus is on the game this week, and has been for the last couple of weeks.

“All I need to worry about is playing good rugby and whatever happens from here is out of my control.”

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Chief Executive Steve Tew said last week they would be reluctant to release Shields for England’s test series, given he was still contracted until after Super Rugby ended, but then softened his stance the next day.

The Hurricanes have three regular season matches and a potential three playoff games after the international window.

Shields has long been touted as a potential All Black, but only ever made wider training squads and never been called into official teams.

The All Blacks are facing an injury crisis in the loose forwards ahead of their series against France with captain Kieran Read injured and Liam Squire only likely to be back from a broken thumb just before the first test on June 9.

Shields, however, said he had already decided his future and would not be available for Steve Hansen’s side.

“I’m heading off after Super Rugby,” he said. “That was the opportunity that presented itself last year and (I felt I) needed to try something new and that’s how the road’s gone for me and I’m pretty happy with where it’s heading.

“When I signed over in England (playing tests) was obviously part of the plans. As a player, your goal is always to play at that next level and that’s my goal and always has been.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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