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'Make sure you respect everyone': Aaron Smith's advice to ABs rookie

By Alex McLeod

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All Blacks captain Aaron Smith has revealed the advice he gave rookie prop Ethan de Groot ahead of his test debut against Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday.


De Groot will make his first appearance in test rugby at Forsyth Barr Stadium this weekend after being named to start from the bench for the All Blacks

It follows an outstanding sophomore season of Super Rugby with the Highlanders, and the 22-year-old Southland prop credits Highlanders co-captain Smith, who will captain the All Blacks for the first time in his career on Saturday, as a significant influence behind his rapid rise to the test arena.

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Vern Cotter on the huge obstacles Flying Fijians have to overcome to play the All Blacks
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Vern Cotter on the huge obstacles Flying Fijians have to overcome to play the All Blacks

“Aaron Smith, with the Highlanders, when I got named, he sort of took me under his wing and sort of showed me the ropes, just told me to be myself and grab the opportunities with two hands,” de Groot said on Thursday.

Speaking to media at the All Blacks’ captain’s run on Friday, Smith explained how exactly he took de Groot “under his wing” when he came into the national squad for the first time two-and-a-half week ago.

“I sort of gave him a call, these things in the All Blacks we do around pack your club jersey, make sure you’ve got your Adidas kit, all these little things that catch new guys out,” the 97-test veteran said.

“They bring the wrong apparel or wear the non-branded hats, just things the back seat guys come and growl you off about, so I just wanted to, as a Highlander player, let him know what’s coming, shake everyone’s hand.


“We’ve got about the same amount of management as we do players, so make sure you respect everyone in an All Blacks jacket, little things like that.”

In terms of his on-field development, Smith said he told de Groot to seize every opportunity afforded to him, whether that be on the training field, in the gym or during team meetings.

“Around the play, I said I wanted him to be him, keep growing, keep learning, and Ethan’s done really well around our environment.

“Last week, he was watching, listening, really engaged and focused, and that’s something I challenged him on; just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Get excited about what’s to come.”


Smith went on to express his happiness that de Groot will make his test debut on his home Super Rugby ground in front of a large contingent of friends and family from his hometown of Gore.

“It’s funny how these things work out where he’s playing in front of his family down south. It’s a great story. He got called into the Highlanders last year and look how far he’s come in 12 months.

“I’m really proud of him and the Super season he had. I was just really happy he got selected.”

Kick-off for Saturday’s test between the All Blacks and Fiji is scheduled for 7:05pm NZT.


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