Wallaby trio Will Genia, James Horwill and Pat McCabe are all making good progress in their recovery from injury as they prepare to face the Lions next summer.
Genia is ahead of schedule in his return from a serious knee injury, Horwill is on track for the start of the Super Rugby season following hamstring problems and McCabe is finally out of the brace he has been wearing since fracturing his neck in early November.
Wallaby skipper Horwill sat out all of his side’s international fixtures in 2012, Genia missed the final eight Tests of the Year and McCabe struggled with a stress fracture of the lower leg prior to his neck setback as the Wallabies were struck by arguably the unluckiest injury list in the history of the modern game.
Leading scrum-half Genia didn’t expect to be back in action until the Reds’ clash with the Bulls on March 23 but Queensland boss Ewen McKenzie anticipates an earlier return than that, even if the 2011 Super Rugby kings are determined not to rush the process.
"I don't have a fixed date but he has tracked very well," said McKenzie.
"His rehab has been perfect. We just have to make sure we don't have any setbacks – he will be right when he is right.
"But he has been good, possibly ahead of schedule."
As for fellow Red Horwill, McKenzie is undecided whether to use him in the upcoming pre-season trials but he is expected to pick the experienced second row for the tournament opener with the Brumbies on February 16.
"He is on track – we haven't rushed him. It's been methodical and very positive," added McKenzie.
"But we haven't picked trial teams yet. We have to give opportunities for guys around the edges so we will manage that. And we know we have a tough start to the season with the Brumbies."
McCabe could yet line up against Horwill in that fixture in Canberra in just under six weeks’ time despite the delicate nature of his injury.
The 24-year-old centre is one of Robbie Deans’ most-valued players within the Wallaby set up and his country will desperately want him firing on all cylinders when the Lions arrive in town.
Brumbies head coach Jake White is confident McCabe will be able to press his international claims without fear of a reoccurring problem with his neck but he admits he will have to work hard to regain the strength and bulk he has lost during his time off.
''Patty, we're obviously still looking at his neck, but it's positive, the surgeon said it's 99 per cent healed,'' added White.
''All things being equal that means he will be available (for round one), but whether physically he's going to put on the weight we want him to and get back to the physical state we want him to be for round one, (we don’t know). It will be a tough game anyway and we don't want to be rushing him in.''