Rugby: Victor Vito given chance to push for NZ World Cup place

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - Rangy loose forward Victor Vito has been given an opportunity to cement a World Cup place after he was named as New Zealand's blindside flanker for the Bledisloe Cup test with Australia in Auckland on Saturday.

He joins captain Richie McCaw, who will make a world record 142nd test appearance at Eden Park, and Kieran Read in the loose forwards as the world champions look to bounce back from a surprising 27-19 defeat by the Wallabies in Sydney last week.

Vito was also a late call-up for the 2011 World Cup squad, ending Liam Messam's hopes after the Chiefs player appeared to be the favourite to earn a place at the tournament that the All Blacks went on to win on home soil.

The Wellington Hurricanes forward's extra pace and ability to go wider than Messam or first-choice Jerome Kaino could prove effective against the Wallabies, whose tactic of selecting Michael Hooper and David Pocock last week negated the All Blacks' bid to generate quick second-phase ball.

Australia's victory in Sydney has given them a chance of hoisting the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2003.

McCaw's record has been pushed into the background in rugby-mad New Zealand this week although coach Steve Hansen praised his captain on Thursday.

"I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and the All Blacks to publicly acknowledge Richie's achievement in becoming the most capped test player in the history of the game," Hansen said in a statement.

"His performances week in week out in the black jersey have been nothing short of extraordinary."

McCaw equalled the record of 141 caps, held by former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, in Sydney last week.

Vito is one of three changes from the starting side as he replaces Kaino while Sam Whitelock has been elevated from the bench to start at lock. Inside centre Ma'a Nonu returns from injury to replace Sonny Bill Williams.

"This game is one of the best challenges we could have," Hansen added. "We pride ourselves on our performance and last week's wasn't good enough so we have been working hard at all areas of our game.

"We know we have to be smarter, more accurate and bring more intensity right across the park," said Hansen.

"It's also our last test match in New Zealand for the year so it's important that we deliver a performance that we can be proud of in front of our home fans."