Brad Shields has this morning formally requested a release from his New Zealand Rugby contract to play for England against South Africa in the June test window.
NZ Rugby is considering its response, but is likely to allow the Hurricanes loose forward dispensation to play given his long-standing service to the game.
To do otherwise would appear churlish, but while chief executive Steve Tew said he and his organisation would take into account Shields' previous commitment to the game in New Zealand, he wouldn't say which way the decision would fall.
If Shields was released to play for England, he would still have to return to play out the rest of his contract with the Hurricanes before leaving for his new club Wasps at the end of the season.
"It's quite a work in progress," Tew said. "We've only just this morning got a formal request to consider releasing Brad. He's contracted to New Zealand until the end of Super Rugby and so the World Rugby regulations don't apply per se because he's committed himself to New Zealand, but he is a long-standing and loyal servant of the game and has put a request in.
"We're looking at that and are considering the ramifications of releasing him to England in the middle of a competition he is committed to. We haven't made a final decision yet."
Asked about Shields' long service with Wellington and the Hurricanes and whether that will play a part in the decision, Tew said: "We'd treat any request from our employees on its merits and take into account all sorts of factors.
"There's no point in not acknowledging that Brad has been a very, very good servant of the game for a long period of time. If he had been picked for the All Blacks we wouldn't be having this conversation but he hasn't made that cut and is now taking a different direction."
NZ Rugby's decision is not likely to take long, Tew said. "We're not going to muck around. There's no point in taking weeks when he and England need a decision faster than that."
Tew said World Rugby's "regulation nine", which states national unions must release players to play for their countries during test windows doesn't apply in Shields' case.
Shields qualifies for England through his parents but implicit in his NZ Rugby contract is his commitment to the game in New Zealand.
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