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By Nick Cain
IF there’s one rugby nation that England should not take any lectures from when it comes to adopting players from other countries it is New Zealand. The froth of Kiwi indignation at the decision by the Hurricanes captain Brad Shields to declare for England is laughable, especially as nobody twisted his arm.
Both Shields parents are English, and have returned from NZ to live in England, so there are no questions about his immediate eligibility under World Rugby regulations. In addition, he is joining an English club, Wasps, next season.
However, it didn’t take long for the New Zealand media to brand England as poachers. Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby questioned why the RFU were not producing enough Test standard back row forwards of their own – while also suggesting, wrongly, that they had primacy of contract and could prevent Shields from joining the England tour party to South Africa.
The question New Zealand Rugby should answer is this: are the All Blacks struggling so much to find back row forwards that they have to raid Tonga for their latest blindside star, Vaea Fifita?
Or what about wings, with Waisake Naholo ‘captured’ from Fiji? Both were adopted by New Zealand via school sports scholarships when they were 18 – the standard Kiwi method of cherry-picking Pacific Island talent.
My hunch is that the NZ Union did not want to lose Shields because he is versatile, a leader, and should have been capped at blindside ahead of Liam Squire, as well as providing No.8 cover for Kieran Read.
The All Blacks don’t make too many selection blunders, but Shields is the one that got away – and what really sticks in their craw is that England are the beneficiaries.
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