All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has expressed his unhappiness after his first-choice loosehead prop, Ethan de Groot, received a two-match suspension following his recent red card against Namibia.
Foster couldn’t hide his disappointment after he travelled to Paris and back to help mount Ethan de Groot’s defence case, but the Rugby World Cup’s independent disciplinary committee disagreed and initially suspended De Groot for three weeks, but by completing World Rugby’s tackle school, he will have one week shaved off from his ban.
Referee Luke Pearce sin-binned the front-row in the 71st minute of the All Blacks’ 71-3 victory over the Welwitschias for his no-arms tackle, with the incident reviewed by the Foul Player Review Bunker.
Yellow card upgraded to red
The Bunker upgraded his yellow card to a red.
World Rugby has now confirmed that De Groot has been suspended for the remaining two pool games and can return for New Zealand’s potential quarter-final if they qualify.
Foster had accompanied De Groot to Paris to argue that the red card threshold was not met. They argued that shoulder-to-shoulder contact had been made as the player who was tackled by De Groot – Namibia back-row Adriaan Booysen – sustained a dislocated shoulder due to the incident.
However, the judiciary felt that De Groot had enough time to lower his body height, that head contact was made, and the degree of danger was high.
Foster spoke to the media after a well-attended public training session in Bordeaux – where the All Blacks are spending their bye week before returning to their base in Lyon – on Monday.
“You’re always disappointed,” he told Stuff when asked his reaction to the suspension. “It is what it is. Went to Paris, big old day, argued our case, and a little bit surprised. But we’ll just have to suck that up and take it.”
Foster did not want to expand on the case presented in Paris nor the reason for his surprise at the outcome.
“I’m not going to go into detail,” he said. “That’s the process, and we’ve got to respect that. But there’s a lot of layers in the judiciary now between referees and TMOs, and then we’ve got the bunker, and even those three weren’t totally aligned on it.”
After the clash with Namibia, Foster asked for better consistency in these shoulder-to-head contact incidents at the World Cup and mentioned a similar incident in France’s win over Uruguay, which only resulted in a yellow card for Les Bleus lock Romain Taofifenua.
“Ahh, I’ll leave that,” he responded when asked to respond to those concerns. “I’m not sure ours was a significant shoulder-to-head contact.
“It’s frustrating. It’s one of those things. You’ve just got to deal with it. As frustrated as we are, you’ve just got to keep moving on. He’s going to miss the next two games, but he’ll have a job to do in the meantime.”
Backing other loosehead props
Foster said de Groot had taken the news as well as could be expected, and said he is confident Ofa Tuungafasi and Tamaiti Williams – who is yet to feature at the World Cup – can manage the load for the Italy and Uruguay matches.
“They’re good players,” he said. “They’ve been picked for a reason. We’ve got six props, we’re one down … that leaves five.”