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Inside man keen to put Nonu nightmare to bed

Destroyer ... Ma'a Nonu.

Destroyer ... Ma'a Nonu.

THERE will be many things running through Pat McCabe's head when he takes the field opposite Ma'a Nonu in the final Bledisloe Test tonight. The pair's last encounter will not be one of them.

The Wallabies inside-centre will be doing everything he can to block out any memory of that demoralising showdown, when Nonu, in Blues colours, ran rings around McCabe and the rest of the Brumbies in the final qualifying round of the Super Rugby season.

''I don't have fond memories of that game at all,'' McCabe said of the 30-16 loss that snuffed out hopes of a finals berth for the Brumbies. ''We went into that game extremely confident, and it wasn't a particularly happy afternoon.

''Ma'a was certainly very dominant over me that day, and I think physically he was pretty dominant that day over the whole team, so it's obviously not something that I've tried to think a great deal about and it's not something I think will have any bearing on the game at the weekend.''

It does raise the question, if Nonu was able to gain ascendancy so easily playing alongside the likes of Michael Hobbs and Francis Saili, imagine what magic he might conjure in partnership with All Blacks five-eighth Dan Carter and outside-centre Conrad Smith.

McCabe said the game against the Blues drilled home how important space is to his opponent and the All Blacks attack. Starve them of it and you have a chance to starve them of opportunity.

''It starts as a team. Obviously you face off against each other but, for the most part, you don't run into each other all that often in a game,'' McCabe said.

''In 80 minutes we might run into each other only three, four, five times, so we've got a big job as a whole team to try and keep him quiet, and I think, as much as you can, trying to shut down his space and time is the key.''

Tonight is McCabe's fourth Test outing since a lower-leg stress fracture forced a six-week hiatus. Fast-tracked straight into the starting line-up against Argentina on the Gold Coast, the centre has set out, in every outing since, to repay the faith of Robbie Deans.

It has gone to plan for the most part. There was the yellow card 11 minutes into that first match, when McCabe played the Pumas halfback without the ball, but his self-flagellating reaction was as good an insight as any into what makes the 24-year-old tick.

''One thing about being part of the team is that you certainly don't want to let the team down,'' he said. ''So when I'd done that by getting yellow-carded it was a pretty nervous 10 minutes thinking they were going to score some points against us … Certainly that was my first yellow card, and hopefully it was my last.''

Tonight he lines up alongside Kurtley Beale at No.10 and rookie outside-centre Ben Tapuai for the first time in that midfield combination. McCabe is characteristically honest about the challenges presented by the trio's comparative inexperience but also upbeat in his own, quiet way.

''We've got, I think, a bit of an unknown quantity with the three of us, and I hope that will work in our favour … You don't have any of those past experiences or hang-ups that some of the guys might have who had played them a lot,'' he said.

His and winger Adam Ashley-Cooper's anchoring presence in a back line that has changed around them will be needed tonight against the smooth operators of international rugby. Every ounce of experience will be needed to stem the All Blacks tide. McCabe knows it. He might have been quiet the last night Nonu hurtled downfield in his direction, but you can't believe he will let it happen again.

''I think to beat the All Blacks you're going to go through some tough periods,'' he said. ''They're an extremely good team, and it's never going to go your way for the full 80 minutes.''

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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