England vs South Africa: Brad Shields ready for emotional Twickenham debut filled with belief he deserves selection

Brad Shields will have to put aside his emotions on Saturday afternoon to focus on the task at hand against the Springboks, given that the England flanker will not only be making his home debut, but it will be the very first time he has stepped inside Twickenham.

The majority of England internationals will have their rugby upbringing ingrained in the stadium, with Premiership finals, season-opening double-headers, international tests and the popular London Sevens all key dates on the calendar for young players hoping to become the next big thing.

Those who make it get the chance to play on the hallowed turf, and those who don’t will almost certainly find themselves in the stands watching on at some point. But that’s not the case if you are born and raised in the suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand, as 27-year-old Shields was.


England vs South Africa teams





1/30 Alex Hepburn

2/30 Dylan Hartley

3/30 Kyle Sinckler

4/30 Maro Itoje

5/30 George Kruis

6/30 Brad Sheids

7/30 Tom Curry

8/30 Mark Wilson

9/30 Ben Youngs

10/30 Owen Farrell

11/30 Jonny May

12/30 Ben Te’o

13/30 Henry Slade

14/30 Jack Nowell

15/30 Elliot Daly

16/30 Steven Kitshoff

17/30 Malcolm Marx

18/30 Frans Malherbe

19/30 Eben Etzebeth

20/30 Pieter-Steph du Toit

21/30 Siya Kolisi

22/30 Duane Vermeulen

23/30 Warren Whiteley

24/30 Ivan van Zyl

25/30 Handre Pollard

26/30 Aphiwe Dyantyi

27/30 Damian de Allende

28/30 Jesse Kriel

29/30 S’Busiso Nkosi

30/30 Damian Wilemse

1/30 Alex Hepburn

2/30 Dylan Hartley

3/30 Kyle Sinckler

4/30 Maro Itoje

5/30 George Kruis

6/30 Brad Sheids

7/30 Tom Curry

8/30 Mark Wilson

9/30 Ben Youngs

10/30 Owen Farrell

11/30 Jonny May

12/30 Ben Te’o

13/30 Henry Slade

14/30 Jack Nowell

15/30 Elliot Daly

16/30 Steven Kitshoff

17/30 Malcolm Marx

18/30 Frans Malherbe

19/30 Eben Etzebeth

20/30 Pieter-Steph du Toit

21/30 Siya Kolisi

22/30 Duane Vermeulen

23/30 Warren Whiteley

24/30 Ivan van Zyl

25/30 Handre Pollard

26/30 Aphiwe Dyantyi

27/30 Damian de Allende

28/30 Jesse Kriel

29/30 S’Busiso Nkosi

30/30 Damian Wilemse

“Twickenham is that sort of stadium that everyone wants to tick off their bucket list. 80,000 people. That’s a pretty amazing amount of people to play in front of,” Shields said ahead of Saturday’s Quilter International against South Africa.

“It will sink in the closer you get to the game and get down to the stadium. It will be one of those days where there is a lot of emotion going through. It is how you channel that to bring the best out of yourself.

“It is perfectly normal to be emotional and have a bit of feeling because it means that you care. By the time the first whistle comes it is just about doing your role and the best for the team. What you have practised all week is putting it out on the field and if you can think back to that, make sure that you take each minute as it comes, should be sweet.”

The closest Shields has come to playing at Twickenham came two years ago when he featured for the Barbarians in their non-Test match against the Springboks, while he has also driven past the stadium where his first home cap will come – his third overall after two appearances on the summer tour in South Africa.

But despite his inexperience on the international stage, he will go into the match as England’s joker in the pack. His six years with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby saw him come up against the majority of the squad that Rassie Erasmus named for this weekend’s encounter, and that could be one of the reasons why Eddie Jones decided to send the likes of Michael Rhodes and Ben Morgan back to their clubs and hand Shields the No 6 shirt with Mark Wilson at No 8, despite not being in the most sparkling of runs since joining Wasps.

He is part of an England pack that has just 165 caps in the locker – with 93 of those coming from co-captain Dylan Hartley alone – while the Springboks boast 128 more. Furthermore, England’s options on the bench are hardly brimming with Test match no-how, with Zach Mercer and Ben Moon both uncapped, Alec Hepburn playing for England twice, Charlie Ewels six times and the front-row pair of Jamie George and Harry Williams being the only ones in double figures with 28 and 11 respectively.

That hasn’t dented their belief in being selected though, according to Shields. “We’re massively confident in our ability. There is no one in our forward pack that is second guessing why they are there. We’ve done our work to put ourselves in the best possible position to play our rugby. If you’ve got that under your belt, that becomes a bit of a habit on the field. So go out there, park what you’ve done because it should be a habit and there will be emotion because it is test week but it’s how you channel that in the right direction, in your tackle, your carry or whatever.”

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