Rugby World Cup: All Blacks double down on support for Ethan de Groot after front row's struggles against South Africa, France

All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot has the support of his teammates and coaches, after two poor outings in the black jersey.

Since his return to the All Blacks' starting side in mid-2022, de Groot has had a stranglehold on the No.1 jersey for Ian Foster's side.

Even in a poor Highlanders side in Super Rugby Pacific, de Groot outperformed his competition for the loosehead prop role, and has held off competition from the likes of Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Tamaiti Williams in the All Blacks' strongest side.

Over the last two test matches, though, de Groot has struggled.

Ethan de Groot after defeat to France.
Ethan de Groot after defeat to France. Photo credit: Reuters

While All Blacks' first-choice front row of de Groot, Codie Taylor and Tyrel Lomax made light work of the Rugby Championship, back-to-back losses to South Africa and France have exposed New Zealand on the biggest stage.

Up against Frans Malherbe of South Africa and France's Uini Atonio, de Groot was highly penalised come scrum time, as the All Blacks' forward pack struggled to secure front-foot ball in successive tests.

But for forwards coach Jason Ryan, who has been credited with a lot of the success of the pack since arriving into the All Blacks' camp in 2022, belief in de Groot has not wavered.

"Ethan is probably one of the most determined rugby players I've ever coached," said Ryan. "He's immensely tough, and he cares deeply.

"It would be unfair to point the finger at him solely. [It's about] just building his confidence and making sure he's not taking too much to heart.

"He's a young fella, who's come on the scene pretty quickly. He's come a different path than most.

"We believe in him, 100 percent."

The loss to France leaves the All Blacks with no room to breathe for the remainder of the World Cup pool stage.

Another loss, however unlikely, to Namibia, Italy or Uruguay would all but spell the end of the All Blacks' campaign prematurely.

Meanwhile, another Ethan - Blackadder - has hit the ground running in France after his late call-up.

The 28-year-old has joined the All Blacks in Lyon as an injury replacement for Emoni Narawa, and is in line to feature as early as Saturday morning against Namibia in Toulouse. 

"Ethan will bring - as he does - a lot of energy," Ryan continued. "He gives us some good cover with skip [Sam Cane] being a little bit niggly.

"I'm really proud for him, to be able to give him the call and say he's coming over to the World Cup. 

"I know how hard he's worked and got his body right. It's a credit to the Tasman medical team.

"He's played some good rugby. He'll be diligent - the first thing he said to me was 'can you send me the lineouts?' He loves it.

"He'll bring a good work rate, and a good bit of energy for us." 

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