Super Rugby
Brumbies prefer Pat McCabe at inside centre
February 21, 2014
The Brumbies' Pat McCabe take a tackle, Highlanders v Brumbies, Super Rugby pre-season trial, Queenstown Sports Ground, Queenstown, January 31, 2013
Pat McCabe has proved his strength and fitness in the trials © Getty Images

Pat McCabe sometimes doubted during the long road to recovery from successive neck breaks that he'd ever reach his upcoming 50th Super Rugby match.

Yet the Brumbies inside centre will achieve that milestone when he makes his long-awaited return alongside David Pocock in the team's Super Rugby season-opener against Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium.

With incumbent inside centre Christian Leali'ifano still recovering from ankle surgery, the Brumbies have thrown their full support behind McCabe's rehabilitation by selecting him at No.12 ahead of several strong candidates. Their decision shows how highly they rate the 25-year-old, who has played just 80 minutes or so during trials since breaking his neck for the second time in seven months.

"There were a few times with both injuries that I wasn't sure exactly what was going to happen," McCabe said. "But I'm really happy to be here, and to play all [50 games] with the Brumbies is something I'm really proud of."

McCabe still suffers pre-match nerves, but he insists he has no more doubts about the strength of his neck.

Pat McCabe went down for the second time in the first Test against the British & Irish Lions © Getty Images

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"It was twice in the same spot," he said. "The second time, it has healed a lot stronger than it did the first time, and the scans look a lot better."

McCabe, who broke his neck for the second time while playing for the Wallabies in the first Test against the British & Irish Lions last July, received a head knock in just the 15th minute of his return match against the Highlanders three weeks ago. But Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said the 20-Test back showed no lack of confidence in the teams' final trial against the ACT XV.

"He was fantastically robust," Fisher said. "I see a bloke ready to go and ready to show what he's capable of doing."

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg; Henry Speight, Andrew Smith, Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane; Matt Toomua, Nic White; Jarrad Butler, David Pocock, Ben Mowen (captain); Sam Carter, Scott Fardy; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements: Siliva Siliva, Ruan Smith, Ruaidhri Murphy, Leon Power, Lachlan McCaffrey, Conrad Hoffman, Tevita Kuridrani, Lionel Cronje.

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