Should Brad Shields play for England?

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    Bulls' captain Burger Odendaal tackles Hurricanes' captain Brad Shields. (PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Keep Out! That is the sign the UK is now posting to the rest of the world, politically and culturally. It is building fences, not taking them down.

    Following hard on the heels of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, there has been the so-called ‘Windrush scandal’.

    The flagship MV Empire Windrush ferried 500 men, women and children from the Caribbean islands into Tilbury Docks on June 22 1948, in response to chronic labour shortages after the Second World War.

    The immigrants who arrived on the Windrush formed the advance guard of an estimated 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who were welcomed with open arms by the UK government, and who became a foundation stone in post-war efforts to rebuild the economy.

    The landing cards, which symbolically established the Windrush generation’s right to live and work in the UK, were destroyed by order of the Home Office in 2010, only for a new immigration law to be passed two years later requiring documentary proof of their right to remain in the country. Keep out!

    It is estimated that 57,000 UK citisens have been affected. In some cases, people who have lived, worked and raised families in the country for over 50 years have been sent letters declaring that they are in the country illegally.

    That administrative and political catastrophe is a sad sign of the times, and an unwelcome return of the ‘islander mentality’ in a nation that was supposed to have outgrown it.

    And yet in European rugby, the opposite is true.

    It was only when I sat down to begin my review of Top 14 winners Racing 92 (in preparation for Leinster’s European Champions Cup final) that I realised just how far European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) had bent over backwards to accommodate foreign imports. It does so chiefly for the benefit of the English and French clubs who drove the changes in tournament structure back in 2014.

    EPCR’s rule 3.7 states that only two non-Europeans may be selected in a matchday 23 man squad. That sounds fine – until you consider that only players from New Zealand, Australia and Argentina are considered non-Europeans!

    South Africans, Pacific Islanders (and European players from outside the country of origin) are not counted against the foreign import cap, and this has the effect of giving greater leverage to the buying power of English and French clubs.

    At Leinster, there are only three foreign players in a squad of 45, and 94 per cent of the squad is home-grown – Isa Nacewa was naturalised a long time ago and would have been capped by Ireland had he not played a solitary game for Fiji back in 2003!

    The presence of Scott Fardy, James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park (all from New Zealand and Australia) have resulted in ‘musical chairs’ selection, with one of the three always having to be left out of the matchday squad. James Lowe was the unlucky player in both the final and the semi-final against Scarlets.

    Racing 92 experienced no such problems. At full strength, they could accommodate Dan Carter and Juan Imhoff as their non-Europeans, and still field another six foreign imports in Ben Tameifuna (Tonga) or Census Johnston (Samoa), Ole Avei (Samoa), Leone Nakarawa (Fiji), Donnacha Ryan (Ireland), Pat Lambie (South Africa) and Vasil Kakovin (Georgia) because they don’t count against the cap.

    The deeper you go, the more weighted towards English and French club success the situation becomes.

    Ben Tameifuna was a junior All Black, played Super Rugby for the Chiefs and was considered good enough to be picked for the wider All Blacks training squad back in 2012. But because he has now played three Tests for Tonga, he is no longer considered non-European.

    The case of Racing number 13 Virimi Vakatawa is as complex and fluid as Tameifuna’s. Vakatawa is a Fijian from the South island of New Zealand who was picked for the French national team by Guy Noves in January 2016, at a time when he was under central contract only to the FFR, not to a Top 14 club. He thus became ‘French’ before he was ever fully integrated into the nation’s club rugby.

    Now we have the case of Hurricane Brad Shields, who will probably represent England in the June Test series against South Africa without having played a single game for the English club he projects to join later in the year, Wasps.

    The fact that Shields will return to New Zealand to rejoin the Hurricanes for the final stages of Super Rugby after the tour finishes makes his international selection more, rather than less, of an anomaly.

    There is no question of Shields’ eligibility – both of his parents are English. The real issue is that he is an exclusive product of the New Zealand rugby system, having played all his representative rugby for Wellington, the Hurricanes and New Zealand under 20s.

    England is, like New Zealand, the only top-tier rugby nation which prohibits the selection of overseas-based players for its national team. So the question for England orbits around trust in the products of its own age-group and club systems.

    Ex-England coach Sir Clive Woodward’s recent article in a UK newspaper, phrased it as follows:

    “Our willingness to scour the world just demonstrates a lack of confidence in our own system and is really a ‘fingers-crossed’ approach to selection…

    “Why not promote from the English game, the Premiership and the RFU’s outstanding Under 20 system? Let’s make a virtue of that, give priority at all times to those who England have produced…

    “England reportedly want to pluck Shields out of the Super Rugby tournament, fly him 12,000 miles to here and then another 5500 to South Africa, before he returns to Wellington to complete his contract there. It makes zero sense and is intrinsically wrong.”

    All very well – or so you would have thought. You would be wrong.

    It is a sign of the prevailing ‘Windrush’ confusion in England that the same Clive Woodward argued just as convincingly for the selection of overseas-based Steffon Armitage before the 2015 World Cup, stating that “we have to rid ourselves of this prejudice against selecting England players abroad”.

    Woodward backed Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal in calling it a “stupid… misplaced protectionism”, even though England could neither monitor Armitage’s training and dietary regime, nor be guaranteed his release for training camps and tours.

    Woodward is on firmer ground when he questions whether Shields is good enough to justify his promotion over the likes of Don Armand and Dave Ewers from the Exeter Chiefs: “Is selecting Shields really going to make that much difference when playing against the best teams in the world?”

    There is a reason Shields has not become an All Black, and why he has dropped down to England’s later pick in the ‘national draft’. It is nothing to do with his character and leadership qualities, which by all accounts, are of true benefit to any side.

    Having examined Shields’ performance for the Hurricanes against the Blues over the weekend, I believe it is connected to a lack of outstanding point-of-difference in his playing attributes.

    According to my stats, Shields contributed 12 carries, 13 tackles, five lineout takes and two turnovers on the ground to the Canes’ win. There is no problem with either Shields’ work-rate or his ability to play as effectively in the 80th minute as the first – the number of his involvements was sustained in all four quarters. He is as honest as the day is long.

    Lift the lid on those impressive figures and a slightly different picture emerges, however. Only one carry was for significantly positive yardage, and there were two fumbles, one close to the opposition goal-line. There was one dominant tackle compared to three misses, one of which resulted directly in a score for the Blues. Shields also gave away two penalties, one of which was for detaching from the scrum with the Canes five metres from the Blues’ line.

    On the positive side of the slate, Shields is an all-rounder who can do a bit of everything. At his best, he can use his feet well before the tackle when taking the ball up:

    He is also a good lineout athlete who was the target of choice when the Hurricanes went to drive the maul close in the Blues’ red zone.

    On balance, Shields is probably better in defence than he is in attack. He made a couple of excellent tackles on Blues’ fullback Matt Duffie on kick-chase, and made one dominant hit-and-rob close to the breakdown:

    He is handy on-ball, and confirmed his durability with a second turnover against a one-man cleanout in the second period:

    He also demonstrated impressive defensive technique at the maul with the Blues pressing for a score:

    Shields has inserted himself into the gap between the Blues’ receiver and his front-lifter and he stays there long enough for #3 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen to join him and widen it to a tipping point:

    The Blues’ maul has broken into two halves – and one half has collapsed completely – because of the work done by Shields and JTA, and the chance of a try has evaporated with it.

    On the negative side, Shields had consistent problems handling Sonny Bill Williams on simple switch plays throughout the game. Williams used a quick shift of the feet to beat him one-on-one for the Blues first try (0:26 on the reel):

    At the crucial moment, Shields is too upright and flat-footed to prevent Williams making his move and achieving separation:

    The play was almost repeated word-for-word in the second half:

    Here, Shields just about manages to hang on to enough of Williams to stop him from scoring the try himself, although the Blues occupied the position for long enough for a try to result in any case (1:22 on the reel).

    The two fumbles on pick-and-go plays also raised some questions about the reliability of Shields’ hands in heavy contact:

    There is also a broader issue in terms of Shields’ fitness for the England attacking pattern. England tend to use their #6 closer to the breakdown, while the Canes will spread Shields further out towards touch:

    Looking further into the future, it is doubtful whether Shields can unseat Courtney Lawes as England’s first-choice at number six for the big bust-up at Twickenham later this Autumn. Lawes is essentially a bigger, nastier version with exactly the point-of-difference Shields lacks:

    Confusion reigns in the UK over the status of ‘foreign imports’ in all aspects of the culture. As the Windrush outrage showed, we can no longer remember who belongs in the country, or why they came in the first place!

    The same confusion exists in English and French rugby. The EPCR non-European regulations only appear to limit imports to two players. In reality, they clearly favour the English and French clubs who can sustain a much larger quota of top-flight players from South Africa, the Pacific Islands and other parts of Europe than their Celtic cousins, without counting the cost in their matchday squads.

    The Brad Shields case, and Clive Woodward’s contradictory attitudes towards overseas-based players, illustrates a similar confusion. On the one hand, it’s “intrinsically wrong” to select a player who has not been developed within the English system; on the other “squad selections must never be made on any criteria other than performance and merit”, regardless of geography.

    Should players who ply their trade outside England (or for that matter New Zealand) be allowed to represent it when they are not currently playing for a club in England?

    What does Shields’ selection say about the youth and club development programs in the English Premiership which are constantly fuelled by RFU incentives?

    Will Shields be first choice when Courtney Lawes returns from injury, or if Eddie Jones decides to pick Chris Robshaw at number six for the Tests against South Africa? Will he feel the move to Wasps is worthwhile then?

    Over the course of time, it may prove to be a move he has cause to regret.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick's latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled The Iron Curtain. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (436)

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 4:44am
      Derm McCrum said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:44am | ! Report


      (Sits back with popcorn 🍿 and waits…)

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2018 @ 5:07am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:07am | ! Report

        Cheers Derm – I think that was encouragement 😀

        • May 16th 2018 @ 6:29am
          nickbrisbane said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:29am | ! Report

          Whats the reasoning behind not counting South Africans as foreigners?

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 6:36am
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:36am | ! Report

            Something to do with the Kolpak case a few years ago??

          • May 16th 2018 @ 8:11am
            Carlos The Argie said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

            They count as extraterrestrials.


          • Roar Pro

            May 16th 2018 @ 11:17am
            PapanuiPirate said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

            As Nick says it’s due to the Kolpak ruling. South Africa and the pacific islands, through their membership of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, technically have enforceable European Union Association Agreements.

            In layman’s terms, due to a particularly convoluted set of trade agreements the protection of migrant workers under EU law, it’s illegal to restrict the opportunities of employment to citizens of associated countries on basis of nationality.

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2018 @ 11:58am
              The Neutral View From Sweden said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

              Spot on PP.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 3:08pm
              Ed said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:08pm | ! Report


              Taniela Tupou is a Wallabies representative. He was born in Tonga, and I’d guess he has a Tongan passport too. Would he come under the Kolpak ruling?

              Nick has said previously replied to me that RA should make re-signing Tupou a priority when his contract is up in 2020. French clubs are not shy in paying big sums for props whereas they are not valued as much in Oz.

            • Columnist

              May 16th 2018 @ 3:21pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

              Thanks PP – interesting how EPCR structured that clause 3.7 isn’t it, as ‘non-Europeans’? Really ought by rights to give the English and French sides a big leg up 😀

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 9:45am
        Ralph said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Heh heh.

        For mine, just good luck to the guy. Shields himself is not responsible for administrative mess.

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2018 @ 3:23pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

          Yes I hope he does well too Ralph. But I don’t believe the situation he’s entering is ‘all good’ for him, and he may end up as an unwilling pawn in a much bigger game….

          • Roar Rookie

            May 16th 2018 @ 11:26pm
            Kirky said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

            Nick! Well researched and informative write up and it opened my eyes a tad also!

            Brad Shields is a great guy and well liked in the rugby community at large, he may be a descended Englishman but he’s a Kiwi through and through, of that there’s no doubt as he’s been brought up through the system as a talented player to watch and to possibly go further in the future: ~ That happens close to the first few games you play in New Zealand by whoever is running the ”littlies” at rugby on sports day where any kid that shows consistent attributes for further development, His name would be jotted down in the Coach at the time’s Notebook, and would continue right through his Primary and Secondary School/College rugby playing career!

            From there he’s being noticed and picked out as a “possible must have,) for further development”, and if he continues he’d be offered a spot in a Top Junior squad to train as a possible future All Black, From the National Schoolboy Representative side to the under 20 Junior All Blacks, which is as far as Brad Shields got as far as his Representing his Country was concerned.

            Playing good rugby in New Zealand does not gain you an automatic spot in an All Black team, and I don’t want to go on and on about the absolute requirements necessary to make the Top Squad proper, but he would have Rugby folk watching him every game he played (a lot of who he would never have known) ~ They are the guys with the Notebooks who jot down everything they consider to be of note to hand to the ‘ones who really matter’!

            That would have applied to Brad Shields, but for reasons you and I will never know, he never ever came up to the expectations required, some of which you have written on in your article Nick that could very well have been incidental to his All Black aspirations: seemingly it stuck and was on the verge but without getting there.

            He is a wonderful contributor to Hurricanes rugby as a top loosie and Skipper of the team, but the top team in his eyes was the only place he wanted to be and he showed up in trial after trial without quite making it!

            Obviously disillusionment set in and it is well known that Fast Eddie chased the butt off him, without exactly knowing what transpired between them both as Coach to be and possible player to be, but Jones obviously got into Brads head, knowing full well his genealogical background and seemingly offered him a guaranteed spot in his England Test team which he took!

            We all could say good luck to Brad Shields when he runs out for his chosen Country of genealogically blessed entitlement to play for, ~ but I can see some pitfalls there as you say Nick that could ruin his career, I hope we’re wrong on that score, because he’ll play, no worries there! ~ but I would never trust Eddie Jones to see him right as no doubt he has promised, ~ Jones is like that!!

            Shields has upset the Kiwis for doing this because of the immense amount of time and money invested to try and get him to the standard required to be an All Black, and without quite saying it, the NZRFU and the Hierarchy of the Hurricanes are not at all amused while wishing him well on his chosen journey!

            New Zealand rugby is never amused when players come out of the system of getting to All Black status then in their prime just take off to wherever, with all their top rugby in front of them because they obviously have not put much thought into the time, effort and money taken to get them where they were, usually in the train on squad! ~ There has never ever been a problem with top players at or near the end of their careers as All Blacks going overseas to play, but players in their prime just cutting loose to fill their pockets does not go down well at all and sometimes there are influences like the current Coach of Bristol encouraging all and sundry to join his squad!! ~ needless to say the particular Coach is not the ”flavour of the month” in NZRugby’s eyes”, money talks!

            He is married to a Kiwi girl and his Children are Kiwis! ~ I think this may be a case of the old proverbial phrase of “Blood’s thicker than water” I personally hope he does well but if it turns sour, he comes back home to New Zealand! ~Cheers

            • Columnist

              May 16th 2018 @ 11:42pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:42pm | ! Report

              Thanks for a pretty complete summary there Kirky!

              I like you would not trust EJ to look after my fortunes one second later than their ‘contractual limitations’, so I hope Brad Shields knows what he’s doing. Eddie won’t think twice about discarding him when the injured return, and if he hasn’t gotten what he wants in SA.

              It can be difficult for the kind of player who is better-than-provincial standard, but slightly short of Test quality. They can easily slip through a number of cracks in the developmental sidewalk!

            • May 17th 2018 @ 1:15am
              Carlos The Argie said | May 17th 2018 @ 1:15am | ! Report

              Very good write up! Excellent and insightful.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 5:09am
      DanFan said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:09am | ! Report

      Sad but probably true

    • May 16th 2018 @ 5:09am
      Lion Brown said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:09am | ! Report

      If Shields is the answer to EJs issues then England have some glaring holes in their progress to being a world beating side – as highlighted here he’s a decent toiler and probably is a better natural athlete than most of the gym monkeys that England seem to pump out with regularity but I can’t escape the feeling that a large part of all this is EJ just being on his normal tosser mode – he wants to try and irritate the NZRU

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2018 @ 6:18am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:18am | ! Report

        I can’t escape the feeling that a large part of all this is EJ just being on his normal tosser mode – he wants to try and irritate the NZRU

        I hope you are wrong about this LB, because if anything he has irritated the clubs back home in the UK even more – they don’t like to see guys parachuted in over their heads, and I don’t think EJ has done himself any favours on this front…

      • May 16th 2018 @ 6:41am
        Mzilikazi said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

        “If Shields is the answer to EJs issues then England have some glaring holes in their progress to being a world beating side ”

        LB, history is not on the side of England ever becoming a long term world beating side. Sure, one WC, but with a great talent pool most years in my lifetime, especially in the forwards, someone always seems to manage to mess it all up. And now we have sent Eddie in from Australia, and he is doing just fine ! I actually feel sad, as I have always enjoyed and admired the great English players walk the world stage.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 8:40am
        woodart said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        dont think he irritates nzrfu, they will be chuckling about poms poaching (again). didnt realise that club rugby in europe was that big of a farce, no wonder french national team has fallen down the pecking order. If I was a young loose forward in english rugby, I would be pretty p*ssed that jones and the bigwigs at english hq had gone cap-in-hand to the bottom of the planet to poach a player who had never played in england , to wear the english jersey. these actions may not breach the english elegibility rules, but surely breach the spirit of them. ….as a hurricanes fan, I hope sheilds isnt injured playing for england in sth africa , as he will be expected back HOME, to help his team win the final of super rugby. you know, the club competition that ISNT wrecking international rugby…

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2018 @ 3:25pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

          It’s very much against the spirit of the rule about overseas selections, even if they can get it through via the small print W. If Shields was a live AB contender there might be some justification for it, but I don’t think he is now, or was in the past.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 4:05pm
            Rod said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

            Why do English rugby given allegedly there are over a million register players, which would be more than Australia, New Zealand the PI islands have combined including Rugby League. Those numbers must be absolutely garbage , surely if they were true, the depth of talent would be amazing , when clearly it’s not .

            • Roar Guru

              May 17th 2018 @ 12:44am
              Derm McCrum said | May 17th 2018 @ 12:44am | ! Report

              They are garbage. Look at the number of senior players instead – more accurate assessment.

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 9:46am
        Ralph said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        If Shields was the answer – what was the question?

        • May 16th 2018 @ 10:54am
          Gormon Kinchley said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

          What will protect us from these archers?

          • Roar Guru

            May 16th 2018 @ 11:17am
            Ralph said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

            BOOM BOOM!

          • May 17th 2018 @ 3:47am
            harry corrigan said | May 17th 2018 @ 3:47am | ! Report

            Clever, thank you.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 3:28pm
        Hanno said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

        I suspect EJ is filling a spot on the blindside in the short term while Lawes & a few others rest/heal over the summer. Shields is a seasoned SR player who will fill that hole if needed off the bench in support of Robshaw.
        If this is the case then it’s not so much of a sleight on the younger guys coming through as a South African test series is not the place too get some experience.
        The South Africans will be keen to regain some ground in the rankings after 2017’s results & probably see this as a chance if England don’t send a gnarly team. This summer’s tour for England is about as far down the other end of the spectrum to Argentina in 2017.
        In the long term I don’t expect Shields to win too many caps & certain not beyond 2019 World Cup.
        As far as the politics go Australia, Argentina & NZ should get their foreign affairs dept’s to write better trade deals.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 5:15am
      Faith said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:15am | ! Report

      Thanks Nick. I would love for you to also mention why he has not made it into the ABs. My theory is that while Shields works well in the Canes all-hands-on-deck-in-attack and defense approach THIS is different to core-roles approach of the ABs especially in the forwards. Messam, Vito were all like Shields, agile etc but unable to dominate till they had to change their games. I’ve noticed the ABs only pick Shields like players i.e Vavita if they think they are truly extraordinary. Savea has been overtaken by Todd in the ABs because his X-factor does not do much against his failure to execute core roles. What surprises me is that England a team that uses dominant forwards arguable more than ABs or rather cares more about that than basic skills (or does that because they do not have players who have both ala Kaino or Read) would go for Shields. It smacks of EJ gimmicky-ness when he runs out of ideas. It also feels that EJ is obsessed so much with NZ rugby (he even denies it all the time) that he’ll look for miracles when none exist. James Broadhurst who was even better than Shields (and somewhat a Cane type player like him) made it to the ABs – went to S.A and was rag-dolled and that was the last he was seen in an ABs shirt. Unfortunately he later retired from concussion symptoms … it’ll be interesting to see Shields in Tests. He might even like Haskell (another player with NZ links) play his skin out and then fade out .. or not.

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2018 @ 6:22am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:22am | ! Report

        I think Vaea Fifita is a good point of comparison. Plays mostly second row for the Canes but the AB’s are clearly projecting him at 6 at international level… He has the raw physical attributes to be another Kaino down the line, and Hansen & co clearly rate that potential above the blue collar virtues of Shields.

        It will fascinating to see whether Shields gets to start ahead of Chris Robshaw, who is one of the most under-rated B/R’s in the world.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 9:00am
          Fox said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          Ardie Savea has been outstanding for the Canes this season and getting better with every game and he is clearly addressing those areas the AB’s want fixed – few in any back row have that powerful leg drive of his that take about 3-4 players to bring him down in the carry. That is X-Factor right there and he has pace. But he has been strong over the ball this season and strong defensively in the tight- areas he was lacking in before .

          The players I would not discount is the outstanding form of Taufua for the Crusaders and Akira Ioane for the Blues who have both also lifted their game to another level Akira has scored 7 tries – up there with some of the best backs and he has also greatly improved his work rate and fitness and he is a current All Black as well.

          Fafita has had an okay season but marred but injury but is there any back rower quicker in the world game?

          Hansen says he is the only forward who can keep up with Barrett and Neholo – that is seriously quick. Well he was a winger at one point but he needs to get more physicality into his game – mind you he very young still.

          But he needs more game time this season.

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 3:29pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

            Both Ardie Savea and Gareth Evans (who I believe will also come into the AB mix somewhere this season) have more point of difference than Shields Fox – that much was clear from the Blues game. Ioane is another who would benefit from long-term involvement in the AB culture. They will back their ability to coach something extra out of these guys even when they’re established SR players.

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2018 @ 3:37pm
              Fox said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

              Agreed – I talk about Evans further down actually Nick

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2018 @ 3:43pm
              Harry Jones said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:43pm | ! Report


              When I took a stat deep dive into the “busiest” SR loosies of 2018, I found:

              – Akira a beast on attack, akin to a top centre in contact and break, but REALLY disinterested in defense

              – Shields a workhorse, but really deficient in “Big Carries” (carries which bent or broke the line, ended in an offload, or busted a tackle)

              • May 17th 2018 @ 1:17am
                Carlos The Argie said | May 17th 2018 @ 1:17am | ! Report

                Maybe we should combine them. Akira? Brira?

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:12am
        SP said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        “It also feels that EJ is obsessed so much with NZ rugby”

        That’s your insecurity talking. Jones is not obsessed with nz tugby. He has defeated it at World Cups twice. If anything nz are obsessed with beating him.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 10:51am
          Taylorman said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

          Twice? 2003 and?

          • May 17th 2018 @ 11:04am
            Buk said | May 17th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

            I guess you could sort of count 2007 as a victory over the All Blacks, despite not playing them.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 12:27pm
          ScottD said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

          Mmm so his winning percentage against the AB’s is what?
          Over 50%?
          Over 30%?

          EJ is a smart rooster and I love his work but he is definitely obsessed with the AB’s. And that is ok.

          Unlike Cheika though he doesn’t carry an obvious chip on his shoulder about them.

          And yes Nick, he is within his rights to choose an overseas based player the real question is “should he”? Which will be answered in Japan next year 🙂

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 3:32pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

            I suspect that last Q may be answered well before the WC Scott… Under pressure Eddie makes most of his mistakes in relationships with other people – the Irish and the Welsh (and by implication the Lions selectors) earlier this year, and now the English clubs and their DoR’s/players.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 7:03pm
          SAVAGE said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

          No Eddie is not obsessed with NZ, and I think the word you’re looking for and was quoted by a number of rugby people south of the equator who worked with him when his contract with England was announced is “Limited”

    • May 16th 2018 @ 5:23am
      Carlos The Argie said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      So, this is the question.

      My mom carries a British passport. My dad was Polish. I was born in Argentina. According to USA law I am hispanic even though I have no hispanic blood in me, just because I was born south of the border. Now, I am a yank. Or a mutt.

      A few years ago, I tried to become a British citizen but I was born in a narrow range of years that would not allow me to become British despite my heritage. My younger brothers probably can. But I can become Polish!

      I am too old to play in England, but maybe if I became Polish I wouldn’t be in Imhoff’s situation. Totally stupid.

      The answer to why Shields drops the ball is simple. A roarer explained this before. He is now English.

      Before I forget, EJ had some nasty things to say about English players this week that was picked up by NZH. Can’t help him make friends over there.

      • Columnist

        May 16th 2018 @ 6:26am
        Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:26am | ! Report

        That’s a complicated heritage Carlos – it would take years to get you a visa from the Home Office!

        Before I forget, EJ had some nasty things to say about English players this week that was picked up by NZH. Can’t help him make friends over there.

        There have been one or two signs that Eddie – irritated by being unable to stop a losing run – has started alienating people around the UK. First it was the Welsh and Irish when he was being touted to coach the Lions in 2021 (he won’t now), now it’s the English clubs by picking Shields with no background in the Prem, voer blokes like Armand who have been in the squad for some time. The pathways are splintering.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 6:51am
          Carlos The Argie said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:51am | ! Report

          He is his worst enemy. His hubris is incredible. A very short half life in organizations for people like him.

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 6:59am
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

            I fear you may be right – his attitude has changed noticeably since the beginning of the year..

            • May 16th 2018 @ 10:54am
              Taylorman said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

              Many this way predicted that when he started. Its his MO. Cheikas the same. Starts well then fizzes on building depth and poor selection policies.

              • Columnist

                May 16th 2018 @ 3:33pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

                Always sad to see negative patterns repeating in otherwise intelligent people though Tman….

              • May 17th 2018 @ 1:18am
                Carlos The Argie said | May 17th 2018 @ 1:18am | ! Report

                Remind this to David Lord. We told him.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 5:03pm
        armchair sportsfan said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        Carlos… pretty sure that Im in the same situation as you. Born in those narrow window of years (late 70’s to early 80s) where if your mum is british you cant get a british passport, and yes, my younger brother has a British passport

        Anyway…totally rugby unrelated, but I recently discovere rthat they’ve finally changed the rules and we can now claim british citizenship….so I’d have another look if you’re still interested….

        • May 17th 2018 @ 1:19am
          Carlos The Argie said | May 17th 2018 @ 1:19am | ! Report

          Nice! But I am older than you. And surely more handsome.
          I’ll check. Thanks for the heads-up.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 5:28am
      mania said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:28am | ! Report

      this is what happens when you select foreign coaches . they dont care about the systems that country has in place and are quite willing to circumvent those sytems to get a win, not caring about the long term affects/messages

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 8:50am
        Derm McCrum said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Nonsense. So coaches should only ply their trade in their own countries?

        • May 16th 2018 @ 9:11am
          mania said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          no i didnt say that derm, any country can hire whatever coach they want.
          but if you do this is one of the consequences.
          same thing happened when nucifora coached the blues. he didnt understand that the players getting selected for the ABs was a bigger deal than playing for that super franchise.
          hence him losing the changing room and given his marching orders

          • Roar Guru

            May 16th 2018 @ 11:16am
            Derm McCrum said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

            Well for every bad example I’m sure there are plenty of good ones.

            The foreign coaches in Ireland know they have to work with the system and yes it is frustrating at times eg Matt O’Connor at Leinster, or Rob Penney at Munster, or even some of the domestic coaches like the late Anthony Foley but the systems rule and generally they work with it. Ironically, given your reference to him, it’s Nucifora who sets the ground rules that the provinces have to comply with.

            The FIR hired Conor O’Shea to come in and change their systems. They also hired the Irish guy from IRFU who put the domestic pathways and academies in place in Irish rugby – Steve Aboud to do the same in Italy.

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 3:39pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

            Nucifora seems to be doing a pretty good job in Ireland though 🙂

            • May 16th 2018 @ 11:16pm
              Mzilikazi said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:16pm | ! Report

              Nucjfora. Now there is a coach I thought was badly treated at the Brumbies. Australian coach of the year from 2002 to 2004, he took the team to 3 consecutive finals, and won in 2004.

              In that winning year he had been sacked in April, but stayed on to finish the season. At the time I seem to remember comments that some of the senior players, now in their declining years, had fallen out with their coach. Quite bizarre, IMO.

              He does indeed seem to be doing very well in Ireland. Australia’s loss !

        • May 16th 2018 @ 9:35am
          Jacko said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          The OS coaches achieves 2 things…It brings rugby intellect into the country they coach in and it also takes rugby Intellect back to their own countryt when they eventually return…It seems to complete a lot of coaches

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 9:53am
          Ralph said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          Just the non kiwi coaches of course. We are “special”.

          (I am trolling)

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 3:40pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

            (I am trolling)

            …which just goes to show you have absolutely no trolling instincts Ralph 😀

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2018 @ 3:38pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

          Yes it depends on the coach’s character doesn’t it? Henry and Hansen in Wales spent a lot of time reforming the system rather than circumventing it, and their work paid off after they returned home.

          Joe Schmidt with the NT and Stuart Lancaster at Leinster – they are both working within the culture to improve it in Ireland.

          From what I know Robbie Deans also did a lot of this kind of work as Australian coach, reforming infrastructure as someone who did indeed care about the game in the country.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 9:50am
        Old One Eye said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        Good point Mania but it seems to be happening in Australia as well even with a local coach. We are chasing imports to turn into Aussies not to mention players from other codes. There is precious little attention given to grass roots development and pathways for those not “lucky” enough to be identified before they leave school. We even have the situation in QLD with the AIC schools which is an alternative group to the GPS schools and traditional rugby schools now playing AFL in first term and NRL in third term of the year. This has happened with a large push and support of the organisational bodies of those sports and as far as I can tell there has been no response or push back from either the QRU or ARU. The sport is in trouble here if we can’t even hang onto the breeding grounds of rugby players like the Herbert brothers and John Eales at Ashgrove Marist and Dan Crowley at St Lawrence’s.

        • May 16th 2018 @ 12:11pm
          Kane said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          Problem here is the life of a coach is short, if you don’t get results you’re gone. Maybe if Cheika was signed on a 10 year contract he’d feel more comfortable investing in long term options.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 12:30pm
            ScottD said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

            I doubt that would remove the chip

          • May 16th 2018 @ 1:00pm
            Old One Eye said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            I guess the national coach has some responsibility for immediate results but it is now a full time and reasonably well remunerated post so I would expect that along with the other office bearers at RA and the state bodies he has a role to play in developing the pathways that get the right footballers progressing from junior teams up through and into senior representative levels.

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 3:45pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

            It can happen Kane – Gatty is in his 10th year with Wales now, and he’s done a pretty good job in Wales as a whole, not just the NT.

            • May 16th 2018 @ 11:29pm
              Mzilikazi said | May 16th 2018 @ 11:29pm | ! Report

              Gatland also had a fair time in Ireland….with Galwegians, Connaught, and later Ireland. He was probably one of the first New Zealanders to coach overseas ??

        • Columnist

          May 16th 2018 @ 3:43pm
          Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

          This has happened with a large push and support of the organisational bodies of those sports and as far as I can tell there has been no response or push back from either the QRU or ARU. The sport is in trouble here if we can’t even hang onto the breeding grounds of rugby players like the Herbert brothers and John Eales at Ashgrove Marist and Dan Crowley at St Lawrence’s.

          If this is true it is a very disturbing movement for Australian at the true grass roots level OOE – if there’s any place the Australian unions have to be strong, it’s at the formative level (schools and colleges) when youngsters decide which game they like the best. There has to be significant ‘push’ there…

      • Roar Guru

        May 16th 2018 @ 4:07pm
        ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

        G’day Mania, in a sense I can see where you are getting at but I will agree with Poth the Derm here and say some foreign coaches may be a problem whereas others can be beneficial for the country. I will give you an example of each.

        I think everyone agrees that the input of foreign coaches and other staff has greatly helped Irish rugby out of the doldrums of the 1990-2000 years. However their efforts/input would not have been so successful except that the IRU was willing to listen and take on board many of their ideas. Now lets look at Australia and foreign coaches.

        For what its worth, I still say that “Dingo” Deans was the best coach we have had in Australia since Rod McQueen left in 2001. Deans came to Australia and tried to introduce structures to change the rearing (coaching, mental and skills) of Aussie rugby players from a young age up to the WB. His ideas of course evolved from what he came through and learned in NZ and likely would have led to better skilled players in Australia. He failed as that stood on too many sensitive toes, brick walls were put up in front of his every idea, viper tongue sent to the media and he was punted for Ewen McKenzie (who incidentally played the system with his syndicated newspaper columns promoted himself as The Saviour). One major problem in Australian rugby is there are too many power bases trying to protect their fiefdoms, so anyone in a high level always has friends and enemies and likely doesn’t know who is which. In that case you could argue a foreign WB coach was not the way to go. Changes have to be done from within which is nigh on impossible and had led to the pickle that Oz rugby is in today.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 4:26pm
          ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

          Damn, I belted out this piece after only reading at the top, mania, Derm, mania => my two cents worth. If I had bothered to read further down I see and acknowledge Nick also mentions Robbie Deans attempts to kickstart Aussie rugby. My bad!

          Nick the Bishop, again a very well put article. I agree that picking some bloke who has never ever played in or experienced English rugby just sends all the wrong messages to local players. Brad Shields’ instant conversion to a Pom is in my eyes a flagrant bending of the rules. I am not saying that he shouldn’t play for England, but that he should NOT be selected until his butt is covered in a Wasp jersey. Its not like E.Jones is short of good English backrowers, is it? I see the Aviva on tv occasionally and the bloke at Exeter, Don Armand?? He looked pretty good to me. Is he the sacrificial lamb for the loss to Ireland?

          • Columnist

            May 16th 2018 @ 5:48pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | May 16th 2018 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

            Armand didn’t play against Ireland Thugby, but he has been overlooked for reasons unknown for the June tour… so have many other competents in the same position!

            • May 16th 2018 @ 7:17pm
              ThugbyFan said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

              Oh thanx Nicolas, my bad! For some reason I thought he did. Oh well, back to the plonk to revive my memory cells. 🙂

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