Rugby Union

England vs New Zealand: How the two Kiwis in Eddie Jones’ squad can give England an edge against All Blacks

England will have a Kiwi in the ranks this weekend as they hope to record their first win over New Zealand in six years, but after deciding to turn his back on his All Blacks dream in order to pursue an international career in the red rose, Brad Shields believes there is no perfect solution to beating the world’s best side.

The 27-year-old decided to cut his losses in trying to break into Steve Hansen’s side and leave the Hurricanes in order to join Wasps this year and pursue an England career – something that took off before he even touched down in the United Kingdom and Eddie Jones handed him his debut on the summer tour of South Africa.

After making a good impression on Jones and keeping his place in the squad for the November internationals, Shields now faces the prospect of going up against the country of his birth this Saturday, which comes with all of the unusual aspects of playing against his friends and former teammates, hearing the New Zealand national anthem and not singing it, and standing opposite the Haka.

But his presence will no doubt be a benefit for England in helping to dispel the invincible aura that surrounds the All Blacks, with the flanker telling his teammates that they are simply human beings, like them, who play the basics of rugby union better than most.


England vs South Africa player ratings





1/30 Alec Hepburn – 5 out of 10

2/30 Dylan Hartley – 7 out of 10

3/30 Kyle Sinckler – 6 out of 10

4/30 Maro Itoje – 6 out of 10

5/30 George Kruis – 7 out of 10

6/30 Brad Shields – 7 out of 10

7/30 Tom Curry – 6 out of 10.

8/30 Mark Wilson – 8 out of 10

9/30 Ben Youngs – 6 out of 10

10/30 Owen Farrell – 8 out of 10

11/30 Jonny May – 6 out of 10

12/30 Ben Te’o – 7 out of 10

13/30 Henry Slade – 6 out of 10

14/30 Jack Nowell – 6 out of 10

15/30 Elliot Daly – 5 out of 10

16/30 <b>South Africa:</b> Steven Kitschoff – 7 out of 10

17/30 Malcolm Marx – 4 out of 10

18/30 Frans Malherbe – 6 out of 10

19/30 Eben Etzebeth – 5 out of 10

20/30 Pieter-Steph du Toit – 6 out of 10

21/30 Siya Kolisi – 6 out of 10

22/30 Duane Vermeulen – 6 out of 10

23/30 Warren Whiteley – 6 out of 10

24/30 Ivan van Zyl – 6 out of 10

25/30 Handre Pollard – 7 out of 10

26/30 Aphiwe Dyantyi – 6 out of 10

27/30 Damian de Allende – 6 out of 10

28/30 Jesse Kriel – 6 out of 10

29/30 Sbu Nkosi – 7 out of 10

30/30 Damian Willemse – 6 out of 10

1/30 Alec Hepburn – 5 out of 10

2/30 Dylan Hartley – 7 out of 10

3/30 Kyle Sinckler – 6 out of 10

4/30 Maro Itoje – 6 out of 10

5/30 George Kruis – 7 out of 10

6/30 Brad Shields – 7 out of 10

7/30 Tom Curry – 6 out of 10.

8/30 Mark Wilson – 8 out of 10

9/30 Ben Youngs – 6 out of 10

10/30 Owen Farrell – 8 out of 10

11/30 Jonny May – 6 out of 10

12/30 Ben Te’o – 7 out of 10

13/30 Henry Slade – 6 out of 10

14/30 Jack Nowell – 6 out of 10

15/30 Elliot Daly – 5 out of 10

16/30 <b>South Africa:</b> Steven Kitschoff – 7 out of 10

17/30 Malcolm Marx – 4 out of 10

18/30 Frans Malherbe – 6 out of 10

19/30 Eben Etzebeth – 5 out of 10

20/30 Pieter-Steph du Toit – 6 out of 10

21/30 Siya Kolisi – 6 out of 10

22/30 Duane Vermeulen – 6 out of 10

23/30 Warren Whiteley – 6 out of 10

24/30 Ivan van Zyl – 6 out of 10

25/30 Handre Pollard – 7 out of 10

26/30 Aphiwe Dyantyi – 6 out of 10

27/30 Damian de Allende – 6 out of 10

28/30 Jesse Kriel – 6 out of 10

29/30 Sbu Nkosi – 7 out of 10

30/30 Damian Willemse – 6 out of 10

“That’s it: it’s rugby played very well. If you can do the basics very well, which they do, if you can seize and make the most of your opportunities and score points then you are going to come away with a lot of wins,” Shields said, having been retained in the 25-man squad that will face New Zealand this weekend. 

“As we know they’re a quality outfit but we are a quality outfit as well and we are going out there to play our best footy on the weekend and regardless of the squad we select, everyone is going to put their hands up, like we did last week and in the Test before in South Africa to play our best footy and hopefully come away with a good performance and a win.”

While Shields was busy trying to play down his obvious links to New Zealand, the All Blacks were reflecting on one player who slipped through the net, though not by way of their desire.

Hansen was considering selecting Shields for his senior side, but having been overlooked for a number of years and seeing players like Jerome Kaino, LIam Squire and Vaea Fifita selected ahead of him, the Wellington-born back-row decided that his future did not lie in New Zealand, but in Coventry.

“He knew he was knocking on the door; he’s a fine player and he was very close,” said New Zealand’s assistant coach Ian Foster. “I’m not going to give you reasons why we didn’t pick him, but what we do know is that he is a quality person, he did a great job off the field in the Hurricanes and he was in the conversation a lot with us.

“There will be a bit of banter I’m assuming afterwards, but everyone’s pretty focused on what we do. I think we’ve got over the stage of seeing him in a white jersey now. And he’s just a loosey (loose-forward) who plays for England.”

Having coached the national team at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, defence coach John Mitchell is another Kiwi inside the England camp and offers an insight into the All Blacks mentality which could help England expose certain weaknesses of the New Zealand game that have remained through the generations.

This tactical insight, one that England have not been able to call on in the past, is recognised by Shields’ teammates, Ben Youngs, who said: “Brad’s knowledge is really important because he was at the Hurricanes. John is a Kiwi man who knows the mentality. We have tried to focus on what we can do and improve, although their knowledge is insightful and really important. 

“We are putting an emphasis on getting our bits right. That’s really important b​ecause we don’t want to contain, we want to throw our game-plan at them.

“(Shields) can tell us what the guys he has played with don’t particularly like, traits they have in their game. Beauden Barritt carries the ball more than anyone in their team, which I didn’t know this week and is an amazing stat.”

Of course, that works both ways, Barrett and Ardie Savea will know exactly what Shields can and can’t offer. Shields will also have to be prepared for any attempts by his former teammates to try rile him and get under his skin, with the former Hurricanes captain leaving plenty of ammunition for the All Blacks to get stuck into him with.

“I left a trail of England shirts around,” Shields said earlier this season. “There was one in Beaudy’s (Barrett’s) drawer and another in Colesey’s (Dane Coles). I’m not sure if they’ve worn them in training, hopefully they’ve not burned them.”

However, he is yet to hear, or feel, any riposte from his former colleagues. “He (Barrett) didn’t say anything to me, he just put that photo up. I haven’t spoken to him about it yet.

“I haven’t heard from anyone yet but there’s a few days to go yet so let’s see.”

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