Wallabies ease the pressure on Deans
Australia bounced back from last weekend's humiliating 33-6 loss to France with a brave win at Twickenham. Photo: Getty Images
The ACT Brumbies are bracing to be without Pat McCabe for much of the Super Rugby season as the Wallabies centre needs a ''complete break'' from the sport for three months.
McCabe will return to Australia from the Wallabies' spring tour of Europe this week after scans revealed he had a C1 fracture in his neck after playing just one game.
The predicted recovery time frame will keep McCabe out of training until mid-February but the Brumbies start their Super season on February 16 against the Queensland Reds.
Pat McCabe of Australia cuts a dejected figure having injured his neck during Australia's spring tour. Photo: Getty Images
He will then need time to regain fitness and strength before the Brumbies can select him.
The Brumbies will have to wait until McCabe arrives in Canberra and meets with club medical staff before knowing how long the 24-year-old will be missing for.
''We've got experience now and we know we've got guys who can slot into that position,'' Brumbies backs coach Stephen Larkham said.
''But losing a guy like Patty is massive for a team. He's great with leadership on and off the field and just the way he plays is outstanding.
''He's certainly going to be missed, but it will give someone else a chance to step up and have a crack at inside-centre.''
McCabe didn't play in the Wallabies' 20-14 win over England at Twickenham on Sunday morning.
He injured his neck in the opening match of the tour against France and had scans in London.
McCabe was one of the most consistent players in the Brumbies' back line last season and cemented his place in Robbie Deans's side.
McCabe also missed the start of last Super Rugby season after having a shoulder reconstruction following the World Cup.
While he is versatile, Larkham had planned to use McCabe as an inside- or outside-centre next year.
His absence could open the door for two of Canberra's club rugby players to take an opportunity to step into Super Rugby.
Larkham has been impressed with Gungahlin's Matt Hawke and Queanbeyan's Sam Windsor, who have been training with the top Brumbies squad.
And he hinted the duo could be promoted if there was room in the squad with McCabe out of action for an unknown period.
''Someone's going to get an opportunity for the first period of Super Rugby,'' Larkham said.
''We've got Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano and Zack Holmes who can be in a rotation at flyhalf and inside-centre.
''Robbie [Coleman] has put his hand up more as a fullback, but we could move him back to inside-centre if needed.
''Then there's Matt Hawke who has been training exceptionally well with Sam Windsor and I don't know the circumstances, but they've been showing they've got potential to step in.''
The Brumbies pre-season training will be boosted this week with the return of Joseph Tomane, Lealiifano, Andrew Smith and Henry Speight.
In the first three weeks of training, a large part of the squad has been on limited duties after having off-season surgery.
McCabe's injury is a serious blow for the Brumbies, but hooker Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander showed no signs of their niggling injuries in the Wallabies win over England.
Moore came off the bench while Alexander helped strengthen the Australian scrum as the tight-head prop.
Brumbies recruit David Pocock is also on track to make his return from injury against Italy in Florence on Sunday.
Melbourne Rebels centre Mitch Inman will replace McCabe in the Wallabies squad, while Cadeyrn Neville will cover for Kane Douglas.