Eng­land now des­per­ate, says Mar­shall

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - SPORT -

ENG­LAND’S rush to se­lect Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes cap­tain Brad Shields smacks of des­per­a­tion and shows Ed­die Jones’s men are vul­ner­a­ble, All Blacks rugby great Justin Mar­shall said yes­ter­day.

Jones in­cluded New Zealan­der Shields in his 34-man squad for the three-test tour of South Africa next month, even though the Wasps-bound flanker has never played in Eng­land.

The 27-year-old, who opted for Eng­land after fail­ing to make the All Blacks, needed a spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion from New Zealand Rugby to join Jones’s squad.

For­mer All Black half­back Mar­shall said Shields’s se­lec­tion raised doubts about the depth of tal­ent in English rugby.

“They were truck­ing along nicely and re­ally strug­gling with their se­lec­tions be­cause they had a good group of tal­ent and weren’t sure who to play,” he told Ra­dio Sport.

“But now they’re seek­ing out­side play­ers. How, all of a sud­den, has that tal­ent dis­si­pated to the point that they’re now hav­ing to look for bet­ter op­tions?”

Jones is at­tempt­ing to get his side back to win­ning ways after a dis­as­trous de­fence of their Six Na­tions crown, which saw them lose three suc­ces­sive matches.

Mar­shall said that five months ago Eng­land had looked like New Zealand’s main threat at this year’s Rugby World Cup, but Ire­land had now taken that man­tle.

He said the mo­men­tum that Eng­land built un­der Jones had fal­tered and the coach was look­ing to reignite his team.

“What this whole Brad Shields saga in­di­cates to me is that they’ve be­come a lit­tle more des­per­ate than they looked,” he said.

“They’re nowhere near as rhyth­mic as they were and I think they’re a lot more vul­ner­a­ble.” Eng­land will play their first test against the Spring­boks at El­lis Park on June 9.

Mean­while, Jones says Danny Cipri­ani de­serves his Eng­land se­lec­tion on the back of his su­perb rugby, but the coach has warned that the Wasps fly­half could be on the first plane home from SA if his famed “at­ti­tude” rears its ugly head.

“Purely from a rugby point of view, I’m con­vinced there is some­thing he can of­fer be­cause he’s made changes to his game, and his char­ac­ter will come through,” Jones said.

“We look at not only how they play rugby but how they fit into a team.

Cipri­ani is famed for his fall­outs with team­mates and coaches, and Jones, who al­ways makes it very clear who is in charge of his teams, sug­gested that the 30-year-old might be bet­ter hold­ing his tongue. – Reuters

BRAD SHIELDS

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