Rugby World Cup: All Blacks have complete faith in propping stocks after Ethan de Groot's two-game ban

With Ethan de Groot to spend the next two matches on the sidelines, the All Blacks have complete faith in his replacement – whoever that may be.  

On Tuesday (NZ time), 25-year-old de Groot was handed a two game ban at the Rugby World Cup, after a red card in the All Blacks' victory over Namibia.  

While the All Blacks had been hopeful of seeing de Groot cleared, feeling the incident for a high shot on Namibia's Adriaan Booyens was shoulder on shoulder as opposed to shoulder on head, just who replaces him in the No.1 jersey is still to be decided.  

On one hand, Ofa Tu'ungafasi stands as the more senior of the two available contenders, with more than 50 test caps since his debut in 2016.

Ethan de Groot's ban has opened the door for other players around him.
Ethan de Groot's ban has opened the door for other players around him. Photo credit: Photosport

On the other, is 23-year-old rookie Tamaiti Williams who made his test debut earlier this year after a breakthrough season with the Crusaders in Super Rugby Pacific.  

Whoever is selected will have a job to do straight away as well, with the All Blacks' next clash – against Italy – being key in coach Ian Foster's side advancing from the pool stage and into the quarter-finals.  

And while giving nothing away as to who will line up against the Azzurri on September 30, Foster has complete faith in the squad he initially picked.   

"They're good players," said Foster. "They've been picked for a reason.  

"We've got six props, we're one down. That leaves five."  

As a prop billed as one for the future, facing Italy would be a clear indicator of Williams' rising stocks in the black jersey.   

At just 23, Williams is incredibly young to be in the mix as a test front rower, with props usually approaching their peak years in their late twenties.  

But for first-five Richie Mo'unga, who shares a changing room with Williams with the Crusaders as well as the All Blacks, Williams is ready.   

"The fact that he hasn't changed, in terms of his energy, he's not uptight or he's not any quieter than he usually is, is a sign that he's in a good space," said Mo'unga.  

"Kudos to the other props that are around him that make him feel that way.  

"Feeky [scrum coach Greg Feek] has a really good relationship with him as well. Whatever happens with him, he's ready to get a crack in the World Cup."  

Meanwhile, Tu'ungafasi's Super Rugby teammate Rieko Ioane is just as glowing in his endorsement of the 31-year-old.  

Often a quietly spoken member of the All Blacks' side, Tu'ungafasi's experience could just be the key determinant in whether he's picked to face Italy in Lyon.

"I'm confident in any of the boys that we field out there in that position will do a job," said Ioane.  

"Ofa and I came in [to the All Blacks] in the same year. He's just come [along] leaps and bounds in terms of leadership, especially amongst the props and around our team.  

"He's an influential voice. You saw what he did [against Namibia] with our scrum.   

"Whoever is chosen and lucky enough will do the job."