Brumbies beaten but still happy

ACT Brumbies veteran Clyde Rathbone has backed injury-plagued Wallaby Pat McCabe to recapture his best form this year even though he suffered another blow in his long comeback journey.
Nanjing Night Net

Rathbone dismissed the Brumbies’ pre-season loss to the Otago Highlanders as a hiccup and is confident the physicality of the trial on Friday night will benefit their Super Rugby campaign.

McCabe was left dazed by a head knock just 15 minutes into his first game in seven months as the Brumbies lost to the Highlanders by four points. The 20-Test Wallaby has broken his neck twice since November 2012.

He will have to pass rigorous tests before he can make another comeback. It is unclear whether he will play against an ACT XV on Saturday night.

Star Brumbies and Wallabies flanker David Pocock made his comeback from a knee reconstruction in the pre-season trial.

”A lot of the times guys get head knocks, come off and you can tell they’re incoherent and disoriented,” Rathbone said.

”’Patty’ was fine; it was just a precaution thing. He will recover and be back to his top form this season once he gets some game time.

”’Poey’ [Pocock] was playing as well as he did before the injury. He hasn’t lost anything. When you are coming back from serious injuries, you just want to survive and get through.”

The Brumbies will fine-tune the team when they play against an ACT XV at Viking Park on Saturday night.

They will play their contingent of Wallabies – including Ben Mowen, Matt Toomua and Stephen Moore – to give them match fitness. The Wallabies in the team did not play in the opening trial against the Hurricanes as they were being rested.

Coach Stephen Larkham is trying to juggle the salary cap to retain his stars. One factor in his calculations is that prop Ruaidhri Murphy could be returning to Ireland.

Irish-born Murphy started with the Brumbies in 2012.

It is understood the 26-year-old Murphy, who underwent a knee reconstruction last year, is close to signing a deal with Ulster, which would result in his leaving Canberra at the end of its Super Rugby campaign.

The Brumbies returned to Canberra on Saturday after a taxing opening trial.

McCabe was not the only casualty. Rathbone suffered a sore knee and several players needed stitches.

”You can’t read too much into the result … when we won the title in 2004 we played a trial and lost by 50 points,” Rathbone said.

Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said: ”We’re certainly not disappointed with where we are. We got ruffled by a hard-shouldered Highlanders team, but we’ll learn from that.”

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