Victor Vito has admitted his selection ahead of Jerome Kaino to start the crucial Bledisloe Cup test against Australia at Eden Park was a surprise.
Vito will start at No6, with the other changes coming at second-five where Ma'a Nonu replaces the injured Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Whitelock returns to lock after starting on the reserves bench in last week's loss to the Wallabies in Sydney.
Asked today whether he was surprised to start at blindside flanker rather than No8 where he played for the Hurricanes this season, he said: "Not really. The fact that the opportunity came at all was probably a big surprise, but whether it was No6 or No8 it was either or really. I've been in this team to cover both for a long time so covering No6 is an opportunity I'm looking forward to."
Vito was an impressive performer for the Hurricanes during their run to the final this season. He admitted it was his best season in three or four years, and now it was up to him to transfer that form into the test arena, something he was often struggled to do.
Vito has played 27 tests after making his debut in 2010, but he has started in only 11 of them. His last start was against Scotland at Murrayfield last November.
"The beauty of coming off a campaign I've had with the Canes is that you've got confidence in the way you've been doing things... Obviously it's a big test match so the intensity is going to be different but by and large it's about making sure you nail your roles and not trying to overplay the opportunities you do get."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has admitted he has rolled the dice in not naming a specialist lock on the reserves bench, said there had to be a response to last week's defeat in Sydney or his team would come second again.
" Whether the response is good enough we'll wait and see, but there will definitely be some sort of response. There's already been one this week - you can feel there's a bit more edge."