THERE are a few players whom Wallabies coach Robbie Deans treats like pure gold. One is Adam Ashley-Cooper, because of his ability to excel in so many back-line positions, his unselfish nature and his belief in the national cause.
Another is Pat McCabe. Deans was widely criticised when he introduced McCabe into the Test arena, with complaints the Brumbies midfielder was supposedly limited.
But Deans was captivated by McCabe's fearless nature, intelligent outlook on the game and willingness to do anything his coach wanted.
He understood the importance of running direct attacking lines. He also was willing to be a battering ram. Yet always McCabe provides exactly what Deans asks of him, bringing direction and purpose to an often flighty Wallabies attack.
In just his second full season with the Wallabies, McCabe found himself part of the leadership group, another sign the hierarchy regard him as special. How important McCabe is to Deans was shown when the coach brought him back into the starting line-up for tomorrow night's Test against Argentina on the Gold Coast as soon as he had recovered from a foot stress fracture.
A 30-minute stint in the Canberra grand final last weekend was more than enough for McCabe to convince Deans he was ready, after missing the first three matches of the Rugby Championship.