Shontayne Hape had a message yesterday for anyone who has queried his call-up into Martin Johnson's Six Nations squad. "I'm a proud Englishman," said the 28-year-old, who was born in Auckland and has played 14 times for the New Zealand league team.
Whether Hape's declaration will go any way to appeasing those who question whether imports should block home-grown talent is dubious. On Thursday at the squad announcement, a clearly annoyed Johnson responded, "Is that relevant?" when asked about Hape's nationality. The centre is clearly of the same opinion, although he did confess to fearing barracking from the land of his birth.
"I was brought up in New Zealand and I'm proud of where I come from," Hape told the Bath Chronicle. "But I'm proud to be an Englishman as well and have dual nationality. I was expecting a bit more resistance from friends and family, but they are all behind me."
Hape jumped codes from Bradford Bulls to The Rec 18 months ago and received his residency papers only this month. Yet despite playing only 33 times for Bath, Brian Smith, Johnson's attack coach, made England's interest clear. Nevertheless, Hape revealed that he was stunned when Wednesday's call came. Meanwhile, Stade Francais are ready to fight Julien Dupuy's 23-week ban for gouging. The club's president, Max Guazzini, was not impressed by the appeals committee's one-week reduction on Thursday and signified that he would protest to the French federation and the French league.
- INDEPENDENTBy James Corrigan