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‘When two Titans meet’: Ex-All Black ready for ‘world-class’ Ethan de Groot

By Finn Morton
Ethan de Groot of New Zealand looks dejected following the Summer International match between New Zealand All Blacks v South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on August 25, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Former All Black Jeffery Toomaga-Allen couldn’t stop smiling when asked about the prospect of packing down opposite “world-class” prop Ethan de Groot for the first time on Friday.

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Toomaga-Allen, who played one test for New Zealand in 2013 but was more recently capped by Samoa, has been named to start at tighthead prop for the Queensland Reds this week.

The 33-year-old joins another former All Black, Alex Hodgman in Queensland’s front row, with try-scoring machine Matt Faessler set to line up alongside the pair in the No. 2 jersey.

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While the Reds are without Wallabies Fraser McReight and Tate McDermott through suspension, coach Les Kiss has named a strong side to take on the touring Highlanders.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
1
Draws
0
Wins
4
Average Points scored
26
28
First try wins
20%
Home team wins
80%

One of the matchups to look out for is Toomaga-Allen against de Groot. De Groot would have to be considered a certainty to take the field for the All Blacks against England later this year.

Toomaga-Allen joked about WWE’s WrestleMania and potentially giving it to the Highlanders enforcer before explaining why the challenge that de Groot poses is one he “can’t wait” for.

“Oh mate I can’t wait,” Toomaga-Allen said on Stan Sports’ The Night Before Gameday.

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“I can’t say it on here but WrestleMania was what, last week?

“Nah, I can’t wait. He is a world-class loosehead prop.

“To be fair I am a big fan. I saw him come up through playing with the (Southland) Stags and playing for the All Blacks… earnt that loosehead jersey.

“Seeing him run out with the Landers will be good. I haven’t actually scrummed against him so given that he’s world-class I always want to test myself.

“I’m ready for the challenge… when two Titans meet, that’s what you want.”

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Toomaga-Allen is excited for his positional match-up against one of the best props in the world, but the experienced front-rower also understands what this match means for the Reds’ season.

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This is a fixture that both the Reds and Highlanders are desperate to win. With Super Rugby Pacific passing its halfway point, this fixture has a finals-esque feel to it.

The Reds haven’t won since their 53-26 win over the Melbourne Rebels on March 15, and the Highlanders have lost four matches on the trot dating back to the 8th of March in Sydney.

Queensland were widely considered the favourites last time out against Moana Pasifika in New Zealand, but Les Kiss’ men were stunned 17-14 at Okara Park.

“If I’m honest it’s been quite sharp and brutally honest and training,” Toomaga-Allen discussed when asked about training.

“Les, straight in the changing room after that Moana game, just as you want from a head coach is a dose of truth with a dose of reality.

“We’re not far off and we haven’t been far off. A couple of narrow losses.

“But just knowing and believing that we can do it is important to us and Les really drives that and has driven that this week.

“It’s going to be a good game on Friday.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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