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Rugby | Springboks

Eddie Jones © Getty Images

Shields bolsters the England lineout

England coach Eddie Jones says that Brad Shields’ extra height was a pivotal reason for the call-up to the Kiwi bred flanker for Saturday’s second test against the Springboks in Bloemfontein.

Shields, the regular skipper of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchise, the Hurricanes, was called up for his first start as one of two changes from the side that ran onto Emirates Airlines Park for the opening test last Saturday.

Shields comes in for former England captain and team regular Chris Robshaw, who Jones says has not been in good form recently, while the other change sees the physically imposing Joe Launchbury return to partner Maro Itoje at lock ahead of 20-year-old Nick Isiekwe, who started last week. Launchbury was absent from the first test effort because of a calf injury and his return is seen as a big boost for England as the players selected in the second row last week did not fire.

Robshaw drops out of the England match day squad altogether, although the coach appears to have left the door open for him to play a role in the final match of the tour at Newlands.

“It was a difficult decision to leave Chris Robshaw out but we feel that against the Springboks we need another lineout forward,” said Jones.

“Shields is a very competent jumper, has played lock, and he is also a good work-rate player, which we need. Chris is a hard task-master on himself and when I spoke to him about the decision he seemed to accept that he hasn’t been at his best recently. I don’t know what that is. I wouldn’t say it is fatigue, but we’d like to get him sorted out so hopefully he can play a role in the final test in Cape Town.”

On the Launchbury selection, Jones said he was pleased to have his experience available again, and confirmed that Shields will continue to be the back-up lock, meaning he will switch to the second row during the game if need be.

“I am happy he is available. Nick is a good young player but the point is that he is a young player and involvement at Ellis Park sometimes finds a player out. Joe has 50 odd caps and brings strength to the maul and has a number of other attributes,” said the England coach.

Danny Cipriani has been brought back into the England mix as flyhalf back-up in place of Piers Francis, something that Jones ascribed to the hard work he has put in during training.

“Danny has played really well for us. He came in with a difficult reputation, as you all know, but he has applied himself well. He has a great feel for the game so we welcome him back and I am looking forward to seeing what he can contribute.”

Mark Wilson comes in as a second loose-forward replacement ahead of Robshaw, joining Nathan Hughes among the substitutes.

England have lost four test matches in a row and will lose their chance of scoring a coveted first ever series win in South Africa if they go down in Bloemfontein and Jones acknowledged that the pressure was on him and the team.

“It is obviously a difficult time for us, as it usually is when you lose a few games. We’ve had to cope with a lot of extra pressure, a lot of noise from outside, and when there is noise there is always extra pressure,” said Jones.

“But I think the boys have reacted well and coped well this week. It has been difficult whittling the playing squad down to 23 players.”

England team: Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Mike Brown, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Brad Shields, Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dicks, Joe Marler, Harry Williams, Nathan Hughes, Mark Wilson, Ben Spencer, Danny Cipriani, Denny Solomona.


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