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Robbie Deans: No McCabe worries despite hard-knock life

The Aussie centre will feature against Argentina this weekend after returning from a broken foot.

Pat McCabe: stress fracture.
Pat McCabe: stress fracture.
Image: Getty images

WALLABIES COACH Robbie Deans says he had no hesitation in rushing Pat McCabe straight back from injury for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with Argentina at Skilled Park.

McCabe, 24, has recovered from a stress fracture in his foot that kept him out of Australia’s first three games of the tournament, but does not exactly have a wealth of form behind him.

The ACT Brumbies centre returns to the international stage on the back of just half an hour of club rugby for Wests in Canberra’s first grade grand final on the weekend. His return means that Kurtley Beale has been relegated to the bench, with Berrick Barnes shifting from inside centre to full-back to accommodate him.

But Deans said McCabe’s work ethic has eased any concerns over his readiness for the first ever Test played on the Gold Coast.

“He hasn’t been off for long, and obviously he’s had a full season of rugby, so he’s well conditioned,” he said. ”He played throughout the June series and then finished off Super Rugby as well, so he’s got good background with us.

“We’ve got no doubts about his fitness, it was just a small fracture which has obviously healed fully now.”

Deans was also unworried by Barnes’ lack of experience at Test level at full-back, having played there for Sydney University last year.

“There’s nothing in there that he hasn’t done before. All the skills and requirements, he’s perfectly capable of fulfilling,” he said. McCabe said the transition from local club rugby to the highest form of the game will be a ‘big jump’, but one he feels capable of clearing successfully.

“It’s a huge vote of confidence from Robbie, that he thinks I can come back and play well straight away,” he said. ”I really do appreciate that and I hope I can return the favour by playing well. It’s obviously a big jump coming from Canberra club rugby to test rugby, but physically I feel good and I’m ready to go.”

Deans also paid tribute to veteran lock Nathan Sharpe, who has been handed the Wallabies captaincy for the third time in his long and storied career. He becomes Australia’s third skipper in the Rugby Championship after David Pocock and regular stand-in Will Genia were both struck down with knee injuries over the first half of the competition.

“Sharpy’s just been immense for us this year, he’s been superb,” Deans said. ”You can just see in him, not only in the way he plays, but if you’re around him through the week – the way he prepares to play, the pride he takes in what the group does.

“When you look at the profile of our group at the moment, we’ve lost a lot of experience, so he’s just become even more important to us.”

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