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Rookie All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot inks new deal with Highlanders

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

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Rookie All Blacks star Ethan de Groot has signed a two-year contract extension with the Highlanders in a deal that will keep him in Dunedin until at least 2024.

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De Groot’s fresh contract extension comes after the 23-year-old loosehead prop enjoyed a stellar year that saw him become an All Blacks on the back of a compelling sophomore season in Super Rugby.

After being granted limited opportunities in his debut campaign last year, De Groot became a regular for the Highlanders in 2021 as he impressed with his physical ball-carrying and strong scrummaging during his side’s run to the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final.

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The Gore-born product’s performances also caught the eyes of the All Blacks selectors, who named De Groot as a shock selection in their squad for the July tests against Tonga and Fiji.

A test debut came off the bench against Fiji in front of his home turf at Forsyth Barr Stadium four months ago, and De Groot has since played a further two tests, another against Fiji in Hamilton and one against the USA Eagles in Washington DC.

It was in the American capital where De Groot bagged his first test try, and he has again been named on the All Blacks’ bench for this weekend’s clash against Italy in Rome.

As one of only three current All Blacks in the Highlanders squad – alongside veteran halfback Aaron Smith and loose forward Shannon Frizell – De Groot stands as a highly-influential player at the franchise, even in spite of his young age.

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It’s for that reason that the Highlanders were eager to re-sign their latest homegrown international, with assistant coach Clarke Dermody with of praise for De Groot’s progress in recent times.

“Ethan has made great progress over the last 18 months and has developed a professional attitude on and off the field,” Dermody said via a statement.

“It has certainly taken his training and playing to a new level, he has an exciting career ahead of him as he continues to grow his game.”

De Groot added that he hopes his rapid rise to test rugby, which came via years of service in club and provincial rugby in Southland, will serve as inspiration for those who miss out on representative teams at schoolboy and age-grade level.

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“I hope my selection to the All Blacks can inspire young players that miss out on NZ Schools or NZ U20s to understand that there is a pathway through small unions and club footy, if you work hard and take your opportunities.”

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