Returning McCabe eyes Lions

On the eve of his comeback from a broken neck, Wallaby centre Pat McCabe says there is 'no better test' of Australia's credentials than facing the Lions this summer. [more]

Returning McCabe eyes Lions

On the eve of his comeback from a broken neck, Wallaby centre Pat McCabe says there is ‘no better test’ of Australia’s credentials than facing the Lions this summer.

“It's a huge occasion with the Lions coming out. A lot of great Wallabies players never get to play against them,” said McCabe, who hopes to wear the Wallaby No12 shirt against Britain and Ireland’s elite.

“Pressure is part of the territory. But people expect the Wallabies to be consistent and that's something we haven't been over the last few years.”

McCabe, who has a reputation as one of the gutsiest players in world rugby despite his small stature, has insisted he will not change his playing style following the serious injury he sustained in November.

He first felt pain at the back of his neck after getting hit in a ruck in the Wallabies' clash with France in Paris and, although he trained the next week, the pain increased and scans revealed a fractured vertebra.

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The Brumbies star was immediately put in a neck brace, which he had to wear everyday for two months, but has now made a remarkable recovery.

The 24-year-old will make a low-key comeback playing fullback for an ACT XV against Tonga A on Friday as he aims to prove his fitness and stake his claim for a return to the Green and Gold for the opening Test against the Lions on June 22.

If he comes through his first outing in four months unscathed, McCabe is in line to be part of the Brumbies’ 26-man touring squad that will set off for South Africa in mid-March.

“Physically, I feel as good as I've ever felt and it will take me a couple of weeks to get back into rugby, but it's just good to be around,” added McCabe, after spending hours in the gym, building strength in his neck to ensure he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.

“I guess it's just about getting that confidence back and I expect to perform reasonably well, I've been training pretty hard. I've taken a few knocks on (my neck) at training, nothing changes and hopefully we get through and everything is fine.'”

McCabe is a hugely influential individual for both club and country and in 2012 he was included in the five-man leadership group within the Wallabies, despite it being only his second full season with the team.

He became the inadvertent centre of attention when his elevation to a starting role at the beginning of 2011 usurped the higher-profile Matt Giteau, with the former Wallaby hero not having featured on the Test scene since.

The Lions will tour Australia for the first time in 12 years and, with head coach Robbie Deans taking the challenge so seriously he has asked secured a three-week Super Rugby quarantine of his star names, McCabe insists nothing but series success will do for the hosts.

“It's (winning the series) something the team desperately wants to achieve. I don't think anything other than winning the series will be acceptable to the public and it won't be acceptable to the team.”

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