Teaspoons and chips the key to Brad Shields’ understanding of his heritage
New Zealander will make his England debut this weekend.
Brad Shields insists he is as English as “chip butties” as a retort to sceptics questioning his selection by Eddie Jones.
Chris Robshaw has been dropped for the first time in an international career spanning 65 caps to make room for Shields at blindside flanker when England attempt to rescue their series against South Africa in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
In an accelerated rise through Red Rose ranks that surprises even Shields himself, the 27-year-old Wasps-bound Kiwi will make his full international debut a fortnight after joining up with Jones’ squad for the first time.
World Cup-winning flanker Lewis Moody and coach Sir Clive Woodward are among the dissenting voices questioning whether he should be picked ahead of other back rows who have operated in the Aviva Premiership for a number of seasons.
The response of Agustin Pichot, the World Rugby vice-chairman and Argentina great, when seeing a photo of him in an England shirt for the first time was to declare the “game is losing something”.
But Shields, who was part of the New Zealand Under-20 team that won the 2011 world junior championships, insists his commitment is wholehearted.
“My grandparents were very English and when we were brought up there was a lot of English heritage – all the teaspoons on the wall and chip butties on a Sunday afternoon,” Shields said.
“That sort of stuff mainly came from my grandparents because my parents moved to New Zealand when they were young, but they definitely made sure we knew where we came from and about our heritage.
“Rugby’s a funny sport in terms of where you can end up. It’s a bit of universal culture.
“For us it’s about opportunity and making the most of this small window, whether that be where you start off playing or, like me, where you end up playing.
“This opportunity was there and I thought I might as well make the most of it. I didn’t think it was going to come this early. I’m quite surprised to be in this situation right now.
Rugby's a funny sport in terms of where you can end up. It's a bit of universal culture Brad Shields
“I’m obviously 100 per cent committed. If I didn’t want to be here I would have said no. I’m willing to put everything into this jersey. I want to prove to people I really want to do well for the country.
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.
“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 though 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.”