Cleared for contact: Pat McCabe.

Cleared for contact: Pat McCabe. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Two broken necks threatened to end Pat McCabe's career, but ACT Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham believes the centre will come back a much more dangerous player after scans cleared him to return to contact training in the new year.

Larkham was ''very, very happy'' with the news that McCabe can start contact training when the Brumbies return from their Christmas break on January 6. If all goes well, he'll be available for the Brumbies' preseason trial games and then the Super Rugby season opener against the Queensland Reds on February 22.

Larkham said the medical staff would continue to monitor McCabe during his return from two serious injuries.

''Patty's scan came back positively; I don't have the exact details, but it's positive news,'' he said. ''We start his contact work from January with an eye on potentially playing that first game. I guess it's going to be an ongoing thing, but we've got clearance from the doctor to start contact. I'd say it's something we're always going to be conscious of.''

McCabe first broke his neck on the Wallabies' European spring tour last year and re-injured it against the British and Irish Lions in June.

Unable to do contact work until last week's scan cleared him, McCabe has focused on his speed and skills during the preseason. Larkham said the 25-year-old had recovered some pace and was as quick as he was when he first arrived at the Brumbies five years ago.

He's also added a new string to his bow: renowned for his powerful straight running, McCabe has been adopting more of a playmaker's role.

He's been filling in at No.10 on occasions while five-eighth Matt Toomua and inside centre Christian Lealiifano were in Europe with the Wallabies.

He had become a more complete player, Larkham said. ''What I've seen this preseason is Patty back to his best form ever,'' he said. ''He's been very evasive in training; he's been agile, he's been very skilful.''

With Lealiifano (ankle) out until the end of March, Larkham plans for McCabe to fill the No.12 jersey.