Wallaby McCabe lavishes thanks on Giteau
Wallaby Rookie of the Year Pat McCabe says he can’t give enough thanks to Matt Giteau, the man he effectively ousted from Australia’s Rugby World Cup squad.
VERSATILE Brumbies back Pat McCabe came out of rugby’s version of left field to start all five of Australia’s 2011 Tests in the No.12 jersey.
He described his rapid ascent over the last few months as “crazy.”
Formerly a winger and fullback, the 23-year-old Brumbies utility had never played at inside centre until the latter rounds of this season’s Super Rugby tournament.
His strong running and robust tackling has added a steely edge to a silky Wallabies backline containing a host of sweet stepping line breakers.
After making his debut off the bench against Italy on last year’s Spring Tour, McCabe got his first start in the Test against Samoa, where he was one of the few to impress in the Wallabies’ shock loss.
He started that game at inside centre, playing alongside five-eighth and Brumbies team-mate Giteau, who was making his 92nd and possibly final appearance for Australia, prior to a stint in French club rugby.
McCabe credited Giteau and former Wallabies five-eighth Stephen Larkham with enhancing his knowledge and accelerating his education about the inside centre position.
“Those guys, especially Gits, have been unreal towards me,” McCabe told AAP.
“I think just the amount of advice and time he (Giteau) gave me and just coaching me through different aspects which I didn’t feel completely comfortable in, I really can’t thank him enough for what he did for me.”
McCabe said it initially felt strange to be wearing the No.12 jersey filled for so long by Giteau, but he was enjoying the role and learning more with each game there.
“It felt probably a little bit weird at first,” said McCabe, who still regards himself more as a utility than a specialist inside centre.
“It felt not so much that I was taking his spot, but it was just strange that he wasn’t out there playing for Australia, because he had been there for so long and been playing so well.”
McCabe has found the attacking side of his new role the most challenging and difficult aspect.
“Defence has come reasonably naturally to me,” McCabe said.
“Just getting used to guys like Quade (Cooper) and Kurtley (Beale) and just feeling comfortable in that front line is still something that I’m still learning.”
While some teams favour a second playmaker at inside centre, McCabe is more of an old fashioned hard-running physical midfielder.
He revealed he’s been working hard on adding some subtler elements to his game.
“It probably hasn’t translated to what I’ve done on the field yet, but at training, my passing and things like that is something that I’m working on,” McCabe said.
“But at the same time I think Quade is our best ball player, so the more that he can ball play and have the ball in his hands and guys can run lines off him, the better the team is going to go.”
(AAP Image/Patrick Hamilton)