Rugby Union


Pat McCabe back on track for ACT Brumbies

Wallabies centre Pat McCabe is confident he can again return from a broken neck and is targeting a comeback in the opening ACT Brumbies trial this month, aiming to prove himself a more complete player.

McCabe, 25, who has broken his neck twice in 14 months, only returned to contact training when the Brumbies resumed pre-season training two weeks ago.

While he still faces a more physical test in training, he wants to play in the Brumbies' first trial against the Otago Highlanders in Queenstown, New Zealand, on January 31.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is set to thrust McCabe into Christian Lealiifano's vacant inside-centre position, with Lealiifano not expecting to return from an ankle injury until round five.

Although McCabe's injury has prevented him from contact work, it has allowed him to focus on his ball skills in the pre-season.

McCabe said it was still too early to contemplate how he would fit into the team when Lealiifano returned, but he is focused on trying to wear the No.12 jersey against the Queensland Reds in round one at Canberra Stadium on February 22.


''The proof will be in how I go in the trials,'' he said.

''In that game situation there's a bit more pressure on you, but at this stage I'm feeling really comfortable and feeling a lot more confident with that side of things [ball playing].''

Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg is also targeting a return in the trials after off-season shoulder surgery.

It is most likely he will line up in the second trial, against an ACT XV in Canberra on February 8.

While his shoulder was on the mend, Mogg trained in Queensland with AFL club the Brisbane Lions and hopes the experience can make his booming left boot even more effective in Super Rugby.

The 24-year-old said the training with the Lions was to maintain his fitness while away from Canberra, but also to get tips on his kicking from the Brisbane players, which included young guns Dayne Zorko and Tom Rockliff.

Mogg's left boot became a big part of the Brumbies' game plan last year.

''It was more of an opportunity for myself to keep my general fitness up and work on a few kicking techniques with guys that kick a lot in the game,'' he said.

''There's obviously a lot of difference between an AFL ball and a rugby ball, but I've been working on my kicking since I've been back down here and it's been looking really good lately.

''Hopefully I take that into the trials and into the season.''