World Cup 2023: All Blacks setback as Ethan de Groot cops two-match suspension
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First-choice All Blacks loosehead prop Ethan de Groot will miss the next two games of the Rugby World Cup after facing an independent judicial committee hearing in Paris. 

De Groot fronted the three-member panel on Monday (early Tuesday NZT) after being red-carded for a shoulder-first charge on replacement Namibian forward Adriaan Booysen in the 72nd minute of Saturday’s runaway 71-3 World Cup victory in Toulouse. He was charged with an offence contrary to Law 9.16 (charging without attempting to grasp the opponent).

He was found guilty of foul play and after mitigating circumstances were taken into account was handed a three-match ban. This is reduced to two on the player’s completion of World Rugby’s Coaching Intervention Programme.

At the hearing De Groot admitted he had committed an act of foul play, but maintained the red-card threshold had not been met and challenged the Foul Play Review Official’s decision that the tackle was “always illegal”.

But the judiciary panel disagreed with the player’s claim, found he was not sufficiently bent at the waist, that head contact had occurred and that the FRPO’s decision that the tackle was “always illegal” was correct because of the lack of an attempt to wrap.

The mandatory mid-range entry point for such an offence was six weeks, and this was reduced to three given de Groot’s disciplinary record and other factors. He has agreed to undertake the intervention programme.

Replays on the night showed de Groot’s shoulder connecting with the head area of the Namibian forward who left the field immediately afterwards with injury. The New Zealand prop was at first given a yellow card by referee Luke Pearce, but it was upgraded to red on automatic review by the bunker system in place for the tournament.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster later claimed the initial contact in the collision had been shoulder on shoulder, and pointed to Booysen’s injury as evidence of that. The Namibia player suffered a dislocated shoulder from the clash.

Foster also called for consistency in these high contacts at the World Cup and said a very similar incident involving France lock Romain Taofifenua n their hard-earned victory over Uruguay a night earlier had only been yellow-carded.

The All Blacks will now rely on senior prop Ofa Tuungafasi and rookie Crusaders front-rower Tamaiti Williams covering the loosehead for the final two Pool A clashes against Italy (Sept 29 in Lyon) and Uruguay (Oct 5 in Lyon). He will return for a potential quarterfinal to follow in Paris.

Forwards coach Jason Ryan said prior to the hearing that the All Blacks had sufficient cover in the position to feel comfortable about what lies ahead.

”It was probably questioned a little bit around how many front-rowers we took when we named the squad, and now it’s going to be used,” he said. “We’re more than confident in Tams (Williams) as next man in and we just get on with it.”