England head coach Eddie Jones will be keen for his side to bounce back from their dismal showing in this year's Six Nations when they travel to South Africa to compete in a three-match test series this summer - and he has been handed a potential boost with the news that New Zealand-born loose forward Brad Shields has put himself forward for selection.
Unfortunately for both Jones and Shields, however, there are further hurdles to clear before the 27-year-old can pull on an England jersey.
Although Shields qualifies to represent England through his parents, he still needs to receive clearance from New Zealand Rugby in order to play as he is contracted by the board to play in the country's Super Rugby competition, where he captains the Hurricanes.
New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew has now confirmed that an official request has been made by Shields for a release allowing him to play for England against South Africa, meaning that he would miss a portion of the Super Rugby competition.
"It is a work in progress. We have only just, I think this morning, got a formal request to consider releasing Brad," confirmed Tew, as per Stuff.
"He is contracted to New Zealand to the end of Super Rugby. And so World Rugby regulations don't apply per se," he added, referring to the fact that World Rugby would typically rule in favour of a player being allowed to prioritise international commitments over those to a club side.
Despite representing New Zealand at the Under-20's level, Shields has never been able to break into a talent-rich national squad at senior level - and sees England as his most likely route to playing international rugby at this point in his career.
Shields would essentially rule himself out of New Zealand contention in any case when he joins English side Wasps at the conclusion of the Super Rugby season - as the Kiwis have a policy of not selecting overseas-based players.
Tew did state that any objection to Shield's release would be based upon the board's desire to protect the integrity of the Super Rugby competition.
"We are considering what the ramifications would be of releasing him to play for England in the middle of a competition we are committed to. We have not made any decision yet," he confirmed.
It should be noted that New Zealand Rugby have generally been accommodating in the past where this scenario has arisen.
The governing body is well aware of World Rugby's stance on the issue and so the delay is bound to irk outspoken England chief Jones.
Interestingly, should Shields somehow be denied the opportunity to play against South Africa, he would next be available to debut for England against New Zealand in the autumn internationals later this year.
Regardless of the administrative side of the matter, England will be keen to officially add Shields to their ranks as soon as possible, as they look to build a squad capable of competing at next year's World Cup in Japan.
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