New Zealand Rugby
Vito reaps rewards with RWC call-up
ESPNscrum Staff
August 23, 2011

Victor Vito is relishing the chance to play in the World Cup following his shock call-up to the All Blacks side.

Although the All Blacks World Cup squad announcement lacked a genuine "wow" factor when it was made in Brisbane on Tuesday, Vito's inclusion was surprising considering he reckoned he only made the reserves bench in Port Elizabeth last weekend because Richie McCaw and Kieran Read were spared a third journey to South Africa in 2011.

Liam Messam started at No.8 against a full-strength Springbok pack and unfortunately saw his World Cup hopes diminish as the All Blacks were dominated in the forward exchanges -- and beaten 18-5 on the scoreboard. Vito was unable to change the course of the game when he replaced Messam in the final quarter but did enough to convince head coach Graham Henry he was worthy of a supporting role behind McCaw, Read and Jerome Kaino.

His sterling service for the Hurricanes - he played every minute of their 13 games - and a willingness to back-up for Wellington were also plus points for the 24-year-old. "It was a form thing in the finish," Henry said when explaining Vito's promotion. "Victor's played very well throughout the year. He was very close to the original Tri-Nations squad and he's played well for Wellington.

"He's also a lineout option and we feel Liam didn't quite tick all the boxes (in South Africa)." Vito's selection marks a significant role reversal for the multi-faceted rivals as it Messam who benefitted from Vito's defensive lapse against the Wallabies in Sydney last year. Starting on the blindside flank ahead of Kaino he was slow to react to a short side move that culminated in a try to James O'Connor and was eventually dragged off in the 49th minute.

The All Blacks recovered to pip Australia 23-22 but Vito was still punished when Messam was selected for subsequent Grand Slam-winning tour of Britain and Ireland. As he contemplated the highlight of his seven-Test career, Vito revealed he had discussed the vagaries of selection with Messam before the 30-man squad were revealed to the players in Port Elizabeth.

"Funnily enough we talked about during the week how selection can make or break you sometimes," Vito said. "We also discussed how we get back up (from the disappointment of missing out). Unfortunately this time it was him.

"I missed out last year on the end of year tour, the roles have been reversed this time but that doesn't stop us being good mates."

Although he was overlooked for the Tri-Nations squad Vito said the selectors insisted he was still in the frame. "They said you can always play your way in and as a player you can take that two ways.

"You can put you head down and think 'they're just saying that'. I went away and believed what they said. I worked on some things and getting that call-up (for South Africa) was a dream come true.

"It's been pretty surreal from going from the ITM Cup to a Test call-up and now this. It's been a pretty crazy week."

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