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Former Wallaby describes the 'huge impact' of Ethan de Groot

By Ned Lester
Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

One of the rising stars of New Zealand rugby resides in Dunedin and occupies the No 1 jersey for the Highlanders in Super Rugby as well as recently earning the same jersey for the All Blacks. Ethan de Groot has been a force to be reckoned with in 2023 and there’s no better person to lend some perspective on the 24-year-old’s power than his propping partner.

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Jermaine Ainsley has enjoyed his own streak of rich form recently, The former Wallaby would have heard his name mentioned in All Blacks selection debate over the past few weeks as a major component of one of the strongest scrums in Super Rugby Pacific.

Ainsley earned three Wallaby caps in 2018, so he’s familiar with world-class talent and competing at the highest level. He shared nothing but admiration for the young prop de Groot.

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“He’s awesome,” Ainsley told The Platform. “He’s all in, loves the club first and foremost. He’s just so passionate man, he loves rugby and everyone sees that. Loves his code, and his scrums.

“And personally I love playing next to him, he has a huge impact on games and he’s that go-forward, momentum in our team. And off the field, he’s a good buggar so not much to complain about there.”

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Ainsley’s perspective is a unique one, having risen to the top of the Australian game and threatening to do the same in New Zealand, he is in a rare position to compare the two countries and how they play the game.

“I guess being over here now, I think the major difference is just the intensity. The year before last, the Aotearoa (competition) when just the New Zealand teams played each other, the boys were beaten up because it’s just so fast and physical. I’d say it’s just up another level over here.

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“But Aussie teams are definitely getting much better, as you can see, some schools are getting closer. But when I first came over, it definitely was a huge shock.”

The Highlanders now wait on the results of the Reds v Drua and Chiefs v Force games to decide their fate and reveal if they will live to fight another week and make the playoffs. Ainsley for one is confident that given the chance, his side can produce an upset.

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