Victor Vito gets chance in No 8 jersey

LIAM NAPIER IN EDINBURGH
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012
Victor Vito
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UNTAPPED RESOURCE: Victor Vito will start for the All Blacks at Noth8 against Scotland on Monday.

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Victor Vito returns to his natural position at Murrayfield on Monday morning.

Unfortunately for the talented Wellingtonian, it may not do his long-term test career any favours.

The reason is a world-class bloke called Kieran Read has a stranglehold on the No 8 role and surpassing the future All Blacks captain is inconceivable.

Vito will be thrilled to finally get a chance, over two months after his last genuine opportunity for the All Blacks but he probably wishes his seventh test start was at blindside flanker.

After all, stealing that jersey from Liam Messam is a far more believable scenario than displacing Read.

Instead, in a somewhat questionable decision, Adam Thomson will wear the No 6 jersey against Scotland, with Richie McCaw leading the pack from openside in Edinburgh before taking a rest in Rome next week.

Thomson's future remains caught between Japanese and/or New Zealand rugby.

One wonders, then, what the value is in giving him a start and where does that leave Vito?

After Vito has played 10 of his 17 tests at blindside, including all four this year, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen revealed a change in philosophy yesterday.

He felt Vito was best suited to the back of the scrum.

"Probably in the long run, yeah," Hansen said.

"He played really well there for the Hurricanes."

That is hard to argue with.

Vito's size, pace, athleticism and ball skills make him an untapped resource at No 8.

He is the strongest alternative to Read.

Potential is a term regularly mentioned with Vito.

He has played only 10 minutes of rugby since being yanked three minutes into the second half against the Pumas in Wellington.

Now his "big break" arrives and he'll need a blinder in Edinburgh, not just to have any hope of unseating Read but to keep pressure on Messam.

It's a situation that could conjure up a detrimental mindset.

"I don't think so," Hansen disagreed. "He's been part of an All Black World Cup-winning side and he's been a part of this side all year.

"I don't see any reason for him to be de-motivated.

"He's got to be energised by it and say: if I want to be in this side I've got to be one of the best players in the world.

"Hopefully that does motivate him."

It'll have to, because at two years Read's junior, No 8 could be off-limits for some time for Vito.

The other talking point in the pack is Wyatt Crockett resurfacing at loose-head prop. He, too, has been on the outer, marking off the days until the expanded eight-man bench allowed an extra frontrower.

Crockett won't have fond memories of his last end-of-year tour - he was destroyed by Martin Castrogiovanni and Hansen may be protecting him from the monster Italian prop next week.

Whatever the case, Hansen feels Crockett has earned his eighth test start. Fairfax NZ

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