Shields in line for England call after NZR release

Brad Shields looks set to be included in England's squad for the tour of South Africa after New Zealand Rugby (NZR) agreed to release the Hurricanes forward from his contract.

The 27-year-old, who qualifies for England via his parents, last month asked for permission to play for Eddies Jones' side during June's Test window.

NZR said in a statement it has allowed a "special exception" for Shields despite there being "clear legal grounds" to reject the flanker's request.

Chris Lendrum, head of professional rugby for NZR, registered his disappointment at the Rugby Football Union (RFU) opting to pursue a release for Shields, but wished the Wasps-bound star luck.

"Our contract agreement requires Brad to be available for only New Zealand teams until the end of his term, which expires at the end of this year's Investec Super Rugby season," he said.

"Having said that, Brad has been an exceptional leader inside the Hurricanes environment and a loyal servant to New Zealand Rugby.

"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. In the end, we are happy with the terms of his temporary release.

"We are extremely disappointed that the RFU chose to take this unusual step in seeking this release given that Brad has not yet played rugby in England.

"We are releasing Brad with our best wishes, and we hope to see him achieve his goal of playing international rugby in June."

Shields, a Super Rugby winner with Hurricanes in 2016 and a member of the side that drew with the British and Irish Lions last year, added: "I'm really appreciative that New Zealand Rugby has considered my request. I know it's been a complex matter for them but I'm hugely grateful for their support on this."

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