de Groot ready for first Test start

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De Groot said it was exciting to be selected, especially not having played for some time after picking up a niggly neck injury at the start of the Australian tour.

 

It was frustrating having to sit through the action, but others had things much worse, he said.

 

"You've just got to make the days count, not count the days. I feel like I'm in the best team in the world, I've got awesome coaches. I'm still learning every day, I'm still a pup in scrumming terms, in front row terms, I've still got a lot to learn but I've got the right guys to teach me," he said.

 

Watching the South Africans up close had hit home how big they were and how they changed their forward game up with each outing.

 

"Being in there, and preparing the boys for that, there was a different edge, or feel, in the room," he said. 

 

All of the props in the squad had contributed with advice, and de Groot said he learnt plenty packing down against the tightheads in training, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Angus Ta'avao.

 

"Neeps [Laulala] is the best tighthead in the world and he gets me every now and then, but sometimes I catch him napping," he said.

Because of his injury, he wasn't able to do live scrummaging, but he said it was a case of when he did get a go to make it count.

 

Pulling on the starting jersey was a dream come true, especially after not being named in the Championship squad, he said.

 

The All Blacks had been able to do some analysis of the American scrum, and as a result of their South African coaching connection, they would be direct with their scrum.

 

"If they do get it right, they will hold the ball in there and we've just got to trust our process and assess it. We haven't seen them in a long time, I've never played them but we'll see what happens on Saturday," he said.

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