Lions hopes alive for Wallaby duo

Tue, 21 May 2013 07:11
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Wallabies George Smith and Pat McCabe kept their hopes of facing the British and Irish Lions alive after scans revealed their injuries were not as bad as initially feared.

Veteran flanker George Smith and centre Pat McCabe kept their hopes of facing the British and Irish Lions alive after scans revealed their injuries were not as bad as initially feared.

Smith and McCabe were left out of Robbie Deans' preliminary 25-man Wallaby squad to face the tourists next month. But with six players to be added to the final line-up on June 10, they still stand a chance of playing.

Smith picked up a medial ligament injury playing for the Brumbies last weekend, with Deans on Sunday suggesting he would be out of action for the entire Lions series.

But the Brumbies said the injury was not as serious as first feared.

"Originally it was feared Smith's Australian season was over, but medical advice was confident on Tuesday that wasn't the case," the Brumbies said.

Nevertheless, the 110-Test veteran will not play again for six weeks, which gives him a slim hope of returning for a crack at the Lions in the second Test in Melbourne on June 29.

"My priority from here is to rest, rehab and ensure my body is 100 percent leading into the tail end of the Brumbies season," said Smith, who was on the verge of a remarkable comeback after playing his last Test four years ago.

McCabe injured his knee in the same game as Smith, but he too had good news Tuesday when scans showed no structural damage. He is expected to return for the Brumbies' May 31 clash with the Hurricanes.

"It's a matter of this swelling settling down and then I can start running and it won't be much longer. I'm almost walking normally now," he said.

The 25-year-old, who has represented his country in 19 Tests, has inked a two-year deal with the ARU which will take him through until the end of the 2015 World Cup in England.

In doing so; McCabe joins fellow Wallabies James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Sekope Kepu, Ben McCalman, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Luke Burgess who have all recently recommitted to Australian rugby in the lead-up to that tournament.

Burgess is due to return to Australia next month, after a two-year stint with leading club Toulouse in the French Top 14.

A member of the Australian squad which finished third in New Zealand two years ago; McCabe acknowledged that the opportunity of attending his second World Cup did provide an incentive to stay put.

"It is good to see that the core of the current Wallaby group is staying in Australia until the next World Cup," McCabe says.

"That bodes well. If you look at previous winners of that tournament, like the All Blacks last time; they had a team that had played together for a long time. England in 2003 and South Africa in 2007 were the same. That continuity, which helped all of those sides, is something we will hopefully have with the Wallabies."

A product of Sydney's St Aloysius' College; McCabe made his Super Rugby debut for the Brumbies in 2010, featuring in all 13 matches played by the side that term, before then going on to win selection for the Wallabies later that season.

He made his Test debut against Italy at Florence on the 2010 year-end tour, cementing a regular position in the midfield for the Test side the following year, scoring his maiden Test try as Australia eclipsed South Africa 14-9 at Durban en-route to title success in the final Tri Nations.

Last year saw McCabe involved in the senior player group within the team.

"I've had a great time," McCabe says of his Wallabies career.

"It's been a privilege to wear the gold jersey and represent the country. One aspect of the team in the last couple of years is that most of the players have been of a similar age, so we've learnt together while having some great experiences."

Well settled at the Brumbies, McCabe made a pleasing return from the neck injury he sustained playing against France in Paris, which forced him home from last year's year-end tour.

"It was unsettling at the time, because it sounded ominous, but the rehab went really well, the medical staff were very cautious, and I've had no issues with it since I've been back playing for the Brumbies.

"I've had plenty of contact and have full confidence that it has healed up entirely, otherwise I wouldn't be back out there," McCabe says.

The Wallabies play three Tests against the Lions starting in Brisbane on June 22, followed by Melbourne on June 29 and Sydney on July 6.