NZR had been stalling over Shields' request for permission to join
Eddie Jones' team, raising the prospect of a tug-of-war over the
highly-rated flank who will move to England to play for Wasps at the
end of the Super Rugby season after giving up on being picked for the
But NZR said that after examining the complex case it had agreed to
the move even though there were "clear legal grounds to decline".
"We are releasing Brad with our best wishes and we hope to see him
achieve his goal of playing international rugby in June," NZR head of
professional rugby Chris Lendrum said in a statement.
But Lendrum made it clear NZR were unhappy with the way England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) had handled the matter.
"We are extremely disappointed that the RFU chose to take this
unusual step in seeking this release given that Brad has not yet played
rugby in England," he said.
Shields is New Zealand-born but eligible for England through his
parents and had been expected to feature in Jones' plans for the 2019
But the call-up came earlier than expected, with England looking to
select him for the three-Test tour of South Africa, even though his
Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes is not yet over.
Lendrum said Shields' contract required he make himself available
only to New Zealand teams, meaning there was no obligation to release
England's argument was that World Rugby rules requiring clubs to
release players for national duty during international windows would
have trumped the contract, although neither case will now be tested.