With a number of high profile departures and a growing injury list, Dai Young and the Wasps faithful will have been eagerly anticipating the debut of two of the summers big signings, Brad Shields and Lima Sopoaga.
Unfortunately, for the former, his debut only lasted 44-minutes – he was subbed off with a broken cheekbone following a head-on-head collision with Chiefs scrum-half Stuart Townsend. It was originally feared that the 27 year old could be out for up to 8 weeks, but a hospital scan has reduced the prognosis to a likely 4 week layoff. This should see Shields back in action for Wasps just in time for their Champions Cup clash with holders Leinster in Dublin – that really would be a baptism of fire in Northern Hemisphere rugby terms!
He will be a miss for Wasps; Shields is integral to their plans for the season – but it could have been worse. Eddie Jones will have also feared the worst, but he’s likely to be quietly pleased that the man he’s worked so hard to get into the England set-up will arrive at the Autumn internationals relatively fresh.
But how good is Brad Shields? He first caught the eye ripping up trees for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby, and he quickly became a target for Eddie Jones and Wasps when it became apparent that he was English qualified – winning his first two caps against South Africa in the summer – a tour in which England struggled. Jones has always been an advocate of the versatile backrower – which has drawn criticism in some quarters with comparisons being drawn to the Sam Burgess situation and frustration shown at the perceived lack of faith in home grown talent in the position. He was by no means setting the World alight in his, albeit short, debut; in fact, he was arguably outshone by England rivals Armand and Simmonds on Saturday and was left behind as Henry Slade ghosted by him for his first try.
However, you don’t become a stalwart and captain of a team like the Hurricanes without being a class act. Former coach Chris Boyd recently commented that Shields was the best professional that he has ever coached – high praise considering the stable of players he’s recently overseen! Many observers in New Zealand also agree that he was on the verge of gaining an all blacks cap – something that doesn’t come easy. It’s no surprise that Eddie Jones heaped so much praise upon one of his newest caps wanting to be an integral part of his set-up.
It goes without saying that Shields could have done without the delay to the start of his season, with plenty of competition for the England shirt he will have a short window of time to impress at Wasps, fortunately for him, his ball playing style should help to hit the ground running with his new club. With the World Cup a little over a year away he will need every opportunity he can take.
Written by James Jones – 19/09/18