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Pat McCabe set to cap Super comeback season with Wallabies start

Fairytale return: Pat McCabe.

Fairytale return: Pat McCabe. Photo: Getty Images

Storming Brumbies back Pat McCabe could be set for his first Test start in almost two years when the Wallabies take on New Zealand in the Bledisloe Cup opener next week.

McCabe ran on the right and left wing at the side's first training session since the Waratahs' players arrived in camp. 

He appears to be the frontrunner to replace Nick Cummins, who left to play in Japan at the end of the Western Force's Super Rugby season, and play alongside incumbent winger Adam Ashley-Cooper, with Israel Folau at fullback, Nic White at halfback, Bernard Foley at five-eighth and Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani in the midfield. 

McCabe's selection, potentially his first start since the Wallabies' loss to France in November 2012, would cap a remarkable comeback from two potentially career-ending neck injuries in the past two seasons. 

The 26-year-old made it back to career-best form – epitomised with his man-of-the-match effort against the Hurricanes in March – but has endured setback after setback along the way. He broke his neck twice, once on the Wallabies' end-of-year European tour in 2012 and then again against the British and Irish Lions, and survived a bad scare earlier this year. 

But the hard-running utility who, this year alone, has appeared at fullback and centre for the Brumbies and played twice off the bench at wing for the Wallabies, evidently made a mark in the mind of Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. 

His selection would make it even stevens for Brumbies and Waratahs players in the Wallabies' back line after strong finishes – and Australia's first Super Rugby title in three years – from both provinces.

Foley, returning to the training field for the Wallabies after celebrating his side's maiden title win, assured the Bathurst crowd that Australia's most bitter provincial rivals had well and truly buried the hatchet upon their return to the Test fold. 

"We've spoken about that game, they [the Brumbies] put up such a good fight and performed so well at the back end of the Super Rugby [competition]," the Wallabies No.10 said.

"That's only good for this squad, that we have that competitive edge when we play each other but when we come together we can gel, put it behind us and have a bit of a laugh about it and move on to the task ahead, which is the All Blacks. 

"It doesn't get any bigger, so that's the exciting thing."

The Waratahs beat the Brumbies 26-8 in a tough semi-final in Sydney before pipping the Crusaders in front of 61,800 people at ANZ Stadium a week later. 

Now making up more than two-thirds of the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship, the provincial foes are united in the quest to snap a 12-year period of All Blacks' dominance over the Bledisloe Cup. 

"There's a place for the [rivalry between] the Waratahs, the Reds and the Brumbies, but once you get into camp we've got a goal to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup and the first step is beating the All Blacks in Sydney in 10 days' time, so that's what we're looking at," Foley said. 

It will be Foley's first start against the All Blacks if McKenzie sticks with his first-choice playmaker in the clean sweep of France. He described it as a milestone. 

"The other night was something special, to play before such a big crowd in Sydney, but to do it against the All Blacks in a Bledisloe Cup in your home state, at Homebush, hopefully in front of a capacity crowd, will definitely be a dream come true for me," Foley said. 

27 comments so far

  • i'm not sure about kuridrani at 13. i think ashley-coopr should be there - he's wasted on the wing.

    Date and time
    August 07, 2014, 9:56PM
    • If AAC is centre then it will be a waste of time having a wing.

      McCabe is a very good choice for wing. His open space pace might surprise a few people based on previous glimpses and he has experience at fullback which is handy to provide support to Folau. He is much more reliable than Horne and doesn't butcher tries. McCabe's flat out in your face style will strain the AB's mental fragility. Good stuff.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 9:45AM
    • I agree.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 9:57AM
    • "The All Blacks mental fragility" you must be joking. 17 wins on the trot and 2 of those wins pulled back from the brink after the final whistle doesn't sound like mentally fragility to me.
      We should be talking about how the Wobbilies are going to win the battle up front not whose gonna be the first choice wingers. Test rugby is another level altogether and the game must be won up front first. Obviously the set piece is critical and I don't believe Aus can match the AB's here, they will compete well at the breakdown but the AB's physicality is unmatchable by any team in the world at the moment.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 8:39PM
  • Just because it worked against France does not mean it is our best shot agains the All Blacks. I am hoping for a few alterations, mostly the injection of Beale into 10, Toomua/AAC 12/13. Once Speight is eligible obviously he deserves Cummins spot but for now you can't go past Rob Horne and sure I guess Mccabe is the strongest option on the other wing.

    Date and time
    August 07, 2014, 11:09PM
    • Because Beale can't tackle, and just like Quade, the Wallabies backline shouldn't be changing their entire defensive structure to cover one player's deficiencies.

      I agree on Ashley-Cooper's form at 13, and think it may happen once more wing options become available. But as it stands, AAC is a stronger winger than Horne and in better form than Tomane, so I'm okay with the shift out one place.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 10:37AM
  • Think its a shame if McCabe gets the nod over Rob Horne. I like McCabe - they are similar players actually. But Horne has done little wrong for the Tahs since going to wing - good tough defender, runs direct and is pretty quick. But I'm also not understanding why Link wouldn't give Beale and AAC first crack at 12 & 13 also despite the June test lineup. If Kuridrani had been i better form than AAC, then yes. But AAC has been very, very good. I'd have Horne and McCabe on wings and the rest of the Tahs backline.

    Carter deserves 2nd row alongside Simmons. The rest of the pack picks itself.

    Date and time
    August 08, 2014, 2:20AM
    • The problem with having Foley/Beale at 10/12 is the comparative weakness in defence of Beale over To'omua, yes he fantastic in attack, but his defence is suspect. Remember he is going to have Nonu and Fekitoa running at him, he will struggle to defend against those 2. I have no prob with you're other suggestions, even though as a Brumbies fan I'd like to see Kuridrani in the team, AAC has been by far the best Australian 13 this year.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 8:39AM
    • Also, though I have to allow for some Tah-bias, I'd pick Phipps over White. White simply kicks too much. I largely blame him for that most horribly boring rugby test in Melbourne earlier this year on account of his over-indulged kicking instinct.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 10:00AM
    • 100% agree chisel. Kuridrani is inconsistent at best and AAC is the form centre by miles. I know Test level is a different stage to Super Rugby and I've never been one to tinker with a line up, but the Rugby Championship is a different beast to the French and you'd want to have the best possible backline combination based on form and results. To that end, aside from Nic White at halfback and McCabe on one wing, pick the Tahs backline.

      Date and time
      August 08, 2014, 10:30AM

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