Victor Vito in action against Namibia at the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Hurricanes loose forward and two-time World Cup winning All Black Victor Vito has announced he will play his rugby in France next season.
Vito has signed a three-year contract with French Top 14 club La Rochelle and will farewell New Zealand rugby at the completion of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Former Hurricanes lock Jason Eaton currently plays at the club alongside fellow New Zealanders Romana Graham and David Raikuna.
Vito has played 33 tests for the All Blacks since making his test debut against Ireland in 2010 and was a member of the World Cup winning squads in 2011 and 2015.
The 28-year-old said it was a tough decision to leave New Zealand rugby, but the right one for himself and his young family at this stage of his career.
“I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to represent the All Blacks, Wellington and the Hurricanes over the past ten years,” Vito said.
“It’s been an honour and I’ve cherished every match, but I feel like the time has come for a fresh challenge and I’m excited about the next chapter with La Rochelle.”
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Vito burst onto the national scene in 2008 at the Wellington sevens tournament where he scored the winning try in the final against Samoa and drew comparisons to legendary late All Black wing Jonah Lomu for his strength and speed.
Vito has also made a big impact on Wellington rugby since leaving Scots College and joining the Marist St Pats club.
He made 62 appearances for the Wellington Lions after making his debut as a 19-year-old against Waikato in 2006 and was named Lions player of the year in 2009.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for me in the All Blacks being in and out of the side for the past six seasons and if I’m honest I probably wasn’t mentally ready until 2014.
“Luckily for me Steve Hansen and the other coaches persevered and over the past two years in particular I’ve been pretty proud of what I’ve done in the black jersey.
“It’s never easy to to fight the ego and say no to the chance to represent your country, but my young family trumps my ego any day, especially when there is a chance to provide them with a better future.”