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Shields relishing ‘awesome’ England opportunity

New Zealand-born forward set to start the second Test against South Africa on Saturday.

Brad Shields reflected on a “whirlwind” fortnight which has ended with his selection for England’s second Test against South Africa at the expense of Chris Robshaw.

For the first time in an international career spanning 65 caps, Robshaw has been dropped due to an end-of-season collapse in form that Eddie Jones insists defies explanation.

Instead, Shields will start at blindside flanker to complete a remarkable two weeks which began with him captaining the Hurricanes against the Highlanders in Dunedin before flying 7,655 miles to join up with Jones’ squad in Durban for the first time.

The 27-year-old former New Zealand Under-20s captain, who qualifies for England through his parents, appeared as a first-half replacement for the series opener in Johannesburg and his accelerated rise through the Red Rose ranks continues at Free State Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s been bit of a whirlwind for me. A week ago I was playing for the Hurricanes and now to be here in sunny Durban is a bit of a change. It’s been bloody awesome,” Shields said.

“I didn’t really have too many expectations coming here. All I wanted to do was show up, put my best foot forward, push my case and train well.

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Shields featured as a replacement in the first Test (Themba Hadebe/AP)

“Whatever happened from then was out of my control, it was down to the coaches, so my goal was to do the best I could and fit into the group as quickly as I could.

“There’s so much history in this jersey. I’m just really lucky to pull it on once. To pull it on again on Saturday is a pretty massive achievement for me and my
family. The first cap is something that I’ll always cherish.”

Shields’ elevation into the starting XV on the grounds of his work-rate and line-out expertise has seen Robshaw jettisoned from the matchday 23 altogether.

The former England captain has been an ever-present under Jones and was similarly valued by the Australian’s predecessor Stuart Lancaster, but now he is confronted by an uncertain international future.

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Chris Robshaw will not feature in the second Test (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Chris was very disappointed but was not overly surprised. He’s a very hard taskmaster himself and realises that he hasn’t been in great form,” Jones said.

“We’re trying to find out why but at the moment we can’t. Hopefully we’ll get him right for the third Test.

“Most definitely he’ll come back from this. The door hasn’t been closed. Players go through ups and owns, just like teams go through ups and downs.

“Chris accepts that and accept that he’ll have to do some work to get back into the side and I’m sure he’ll do that.”

An exciting pick on the bench for England’s attempt to rescue the series after losing the Ellis Park opener 42-39 is Danny Cipriani, who was overlooked for the first match despite his superb form for Wasps.

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Danny Cipriani in England action against the Barbarians (Paul Harding/PA)

“Danny has trained really well for us. He came in with a difficult reputation, but he’s been absolutely outstanding in the team,” Jones said.

“He’s got a great feel for the game so whatever situation we’re in we want him to feel the game and look for opportunities.”

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