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Pat McCabe's injury scare sparks boost from ACT Brumbies bench to Wallabies recall

Brumbies utility Pat McCabe is back in the Wallabies squad after twice breaking his neck.

Brumbies utility Pat McCabe is back in the Wallabies squad after twice breaking his neck. Photo: Getty Images

PRETORIA: He's broken his neck in his past two Test matches and, lying in an ambulance two months ago, ACT Brumbies back Pat McCabe again feared his rugby career might be over.

But Super Rugby's comeback king says that latest injury scare hardened him mentally, contributing to the form that has catapulted him from the Brumbies bench back into the Wallabies squad.

McCabe is set to make a remarkable Test comeback next month, named in a 32-man Wallabies squad for the three-match series against France.

The 20-Test Wallaby has opened up about his journey back from two broken necks, his sympathy for NRL player Alex McKinnon and his ambition to win back his Test spot.

McCabe broke his neck in his past two Tests for the Wallabies – one in November 2012 and then again in June last year. It triggered the darkest time of his career, when he lacked motivation and questioned his ability.

“I really didn’t enjoy myself at all last year and to be here loving footy again … it’s a very nice feeling,” McCabe said.

“Last year I never really felt like I was contributing or that I was overly confident in my ability to play well for the team.

“I felt like I was on the outer a bit because I wasn’t playing and I didn’t do pre-season, it wasn’t a great time for me. It was tough.

“I didn’t feel part of the group, I had my neck injury, my hamstring, my knee and then my neck again. To string a few games together this year and feel like I belong at this level, it’s given me a lot of satisfaction.”

Even so, McCabe said he was surprised when Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie called him on Wednesday to tell him he was in the squad.

It was only two months ago McCabe feared he would never play again when he suffered a neck injury in Perth and was taken to hospital

Stretchered off the field against the Western Force in March, McCabe now credits the knock for kick-starting his stellar form.

“That knock has actually given me confidence,” McCabe said.

“Once I got that big knock, had a scare and it was fine, it gave me confidence to know that I could survive. I do think where I’d be now if I’d broken my neck again.

“When I was in the ambulance I thought I’d played my last game. That was it. It was a scary and daunting proposition. But I’ve found a lot more enjoyment in the game this year.”

It’s not surprising McCabe’s heart sank when he saw McKinnon break his neck playing for the Newcastle Knights. McKinnon’s situation reminded McCabe how lucky he was.

“It was scary and I felt incredibly sorry for Alex," McCabe said. "Anyone who plays contact sport, that’s your worst nightmare.

“It was heartbreaking to see and it just hit home the injuries I’ve had are pretty scary and they could have been a lot worse. Also on the flip side, I realise how lucky I am to still be playing and be able to make a Wallabies squad.”

McCabe has been forced to move to the Brumbies bench to accommodate the ACT’s combination of Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano and Tevita Kuridrani. Despite that, his utility value is not under-rated at the Brumbies and he’s having his best season since 2011.

“Everyone wants to start … but I’m enjoying it and I feel like I’m making a contribution off the bench,” McCabe said.

“I’m just trying to make the most of it. I did think being on the Brumbies bench would mean that I wouldn’t be in the Wallabies squad ... to get in the Wallabies was a nice surprise.”

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said McCabe’s selfless attitude made him a “must have” for the Wallabies.

McCabe has proved his doubters wrong this season, adding new dimensions to his game and becoming the Brumbies’ most consistent performer.

“They need players like Pat in the Wallabies, guys who are unselfish. He is 100 per cent dedicated to the team, he will do whatever it takes to get on the field or win a game,” Larkham said.

“He offers so much versatility … he’s someone you have to have in your team at that next level.”

McCabe laughs at references from teammates, dubbing him Super Rugby’s "Chuck Norris" because of his toughness.

“It doesn’t sit well. I’ve copped a bit about that, I don’t enjoy it,'' McCabe said.

“I don’t think I’m a tough guy. Everyone who plays Super Rugby, NRL or AFL has injuries. It’s part of the game and mine just happen to be two broken necks. I’m not special, I’m just trying to win.”

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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