All Blacks: Vito lines up for his starting challenge

By Wynne Gray

Victor Vito knows he has to fit the abrasive mould of Read, Kaino and McCaw. Photo / Getty Images
Victor Vito knows he has to fit the abrasive mould of Read, Kaino and McCaw. Photo / Getty Images

The rumbling about Victor Vito's talent has been around for some time.

He was a sevens star, a huge, powerful man with immense athletic gifts, a leader and a man surely destined for the international stage.

The transition took a little time, longer than many thought before he edged his way past Adam Thomson to begin the challenge for Jerome Kaino's position.

For just the second time in his fledgling international career, Vito gets to start an All Black test, tomorrow against the Wallabies.

It is no sleight on Kaino, just a chance with the Tri-Nations trophy secured for the All Black selectors to watch others in their squad and see how they react to test rugby. Vito is one of the fortunate choices.

"I guess quietly when I go about my work it is always about trying to get that starting spot and it has been awesome to get that chance," he said.

He had not been frustrated by his lack of starts, more grateful that he could get time from the bench to watch the senior looseforwards and then have some replacement work late in tests.

"He [Kaino] has been doing a really great job in the jersey so I guess now the pressure is on me," Vito said.

The regular looseforward trio of captain Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Kaino were extremely abrasive in their approach and Vito knew he had to fit that mould.

"It is going to be a game of physical dominance, rugby never changes in that way so I have to do the graft and make sure I do all the little things right in the lineouts and being accurate."

Test rugby involved more pressure and more scrutiny but individuals were able to concentrate on their roles because of the high calibre of players round them.

"It is all about doing the homework and making sure you are clear about your roles come game time.

"You just have to do your own job and that is what you critique on."

He liked to think he responded better to greater challenges.

"I think all these guys are like that and that is the only way we can get to where we are," Vito said.

He was trying to find the right balance between over-analysing his approach and a laissez-faire attitude. If anything he might overdo the research but he said that was a by-product of his international inexperience.

It was all about time in the game as teammates like McCaw and Brad Thorn understood. It was better to have options than none at all.

Sometimes, Vito said, it was tough to play to a pattern when your instincts wanted to do something else.

But getting chosen in the All Blacks had shown him the benefits of dovetailing his traits to the team cause. The coaches spent time talking to all the players about the roles, ideas and styles of play. Getting a start tomorrow would give him more time to feel the pulse of the test instead of trying to make a cameo impact.

The strong Hurricanes flavour through the team was a comfort but Vito had also enjoyed sharing ideas and friendship with other players from around New Zealand.

"But at the end of the day it is Richie and Reado that I am spending more time with because they are my fellow looseforwards while my Hurricanes buddies are out in the backline."

- NZ Herald

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