Pat McCabe fears for career after neck is broken... again

 

Melbourne

Pat McCabe, the Wallaby centre who suffered a neck injury during the first Test with the Lions in Brisbane and left the field on a stretcher, will not play again this year and may be forced to consider quitting the game altogether. "Only time will tell," said Warren McDonald, the team doctor. "There is no way Pat will be returning to the game without a thorough assessment process."

McCabe re-fractured a bone initially broken during Australia's meeting with France in Paris last November. Specialists have stopped short of calling time on his career immediately – "There is a wide range of options open that will be considered once his rehabilitation is complete," McDonald said – but as the player himself said, it is "human nature to fear the worst".

The ACT Brumbies player had widely been expected to start the game in Brisbane. But he lost out to his provincial colleague Christian Leali'ifano and had to make do with a seat on the bench. When Leali'ifano was knocked cold in attempting to tackle the Welsh midfielder Jonathan Davies inside a minute, McCabe took over. Shortly after the interval, he too was carried off.

"It could have been a lot worse. It was encouraging to hear the specialists being positive, not only about the recovery process but also the possibility that I could return to the playing field," he said. "Obviously, I'd like to get back into it, and I'm in good hands. But I'm not going to take chances with my health."

Meanwhile, the Wallaby back Kurtley Beale had another of his "interesting" days after being photographed at a late-night fast food joint by a Lions supporter. Beale, who made some penetrating runs in the Brisbane Test but missed two late penalty shots was with his Test colleague James O'Connor at 4am following the tourists' 35-0 thrashing of the Melbourne Rebels.

Australian Rugby Union sources stressed that the players, both of whom play Super 15 rugby for the Rebels, had not been drinking, were not subject to a curfew and had not broken team protocols, today being their day off. However, Beale's recent history of alcohol problems – he is still undergoing counselling having spent time in rehab – makes him a magnet for controversy.

At least his Wallaby colleagues are defending his corner. "We're extremely proud of what Kurtley has done," said the new blind-side flanker, Ben Mowen, who turned in an eye-catching performance on his Test debut in Brisbane. "He's had to make a lot of hard decisions and own up to those decisions publicly, which has probably been the biggest challenge. But the way he's come back has been amazing.

"He hadn't played a whole lot when he took the field for us last Saturday, but you can't perform in the way he did unless your mind is in the right place and your body is right.

"I've known him for four or five years and over the last six or seven months he's changed as a bloke, maturing a lot. The way he played at the weekend was a reflection of that. He's a happy-go-lucky sort, There are guys who give something on the pitch and off it in terms of vibe, and he contributes to that. He's great to have around."

Away from the Test scene, the Rebels player Lachlan Mitchell has been suspended for one game after being found guilty of an illegal tackle on the Lions wing Simon Zebo. Mitchell dropped the Irishman on his back and as a result will miss his side's home Super 15 match with the Otago-based Highlanders on 12 July.

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