By Adam Ellis
Eddie Jones has handed a first call-up for Wasps-bound flanker Brad Shields in the England head coach’s 34-man squad to tour South Africa in June.
The Hurricanes captain is one of seven uncapped players to make the plane for the three-Test tour against a Springboks side undergoing a rebuild under new coach and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
The inclusion of Shields had looked unlikely as the NZRU were unwilling to release the back row from his contract, restricting him from being available for England selection. Eligible for England through his parents, the 27-year-old has, however, been granted a ‘temporary release’ after the NZRU considered the ‘complexities’ of the contract.
There is also a long-awaited return to the Red Rose for Danny Cipriani, who is named in an England squad for the first time since Eddie Jones took over from Stuart Lancaster after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Cipriani’s consistent form for Wasps proved too much for Jones to overlook as he is set to vie with George Ford and Owen Farrell for the fly-half berth, with the latter sure to start after being named captain for the tour.
Farrell’s Saracens team-mate Billy Vunipola has also been included despite being unavailable for much of the Premiership season since the new year was cheered in.
Jones also named a training squad to meet for a camp next week, as he gears up for Tests in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
“Our tour to South Africa will be the most exciting challenge for us as a group since 2016,” Jones proclaimed.
“We have an opportunity to create some history next month and win the Test series, something no England side has done before.
“There are a number of players out injured or not selected so it provides a big opportunity for others.
“With three weeks to prepare for the first Test in Johannesburg I am expecting players to come into camp with the right mind-set and we will be looking for them to break the mould in terms of being more assertive and on the front foot in everything we do.
“We will need to be physically aggressive and tactically smart against the Springboks who we know will be combative and reinvigorated by their new coaching setup.”
England’s last summer tour to South Africa in 2012 yielded a 2-0 series defeat from three Tests. The 37-21 win on home soil for Eddie Jones’ men at Twickenham in November 2016 ended a 12-match winless streak against the Boks dating back to 2006.
34-man England squad for South Africa Tour:
Backs: Mike Brown, Danny Cipriani, Elliot Daly, Nathan Earle, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Alex Lozowski, Jonny May, Cameron Redpath, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Denny Solomona, Ben Spencer, Ben Te’o, Ben Youngs.
Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw, Brad Shields, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams, Jack Willis, Mark Wilson.
England training squad for Brighton camp (week commencing May 14)
Backs: Mike Brown, Joe Cokanasiga, George Ford, Piers Francis, Ollie Lawrence, Ben Loader, Jonny May, Cameron Redpath, Marcus Smith, Denny Solomona, Ben Te’o, Ben Vellacott, Jason Woodward, Ben Youngs.
Forwards: Josh Beaumont, Tom Curry, Tom Ellis, Ellis Genge, Teimana Harrison, Paul Hill, George McGuigan, Josh McNally, Joe Marler, Zach Mercer, Beno Obano, Chris Robshaw, Jono Ross, Nick Schonert, Kyle Sinckler, Jack Singleton, Elliott Stooke.