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McCabe, Charles injuries hit Australia's lineup

Nick Mulvenney

Pat McCabe and Nathan Charles being injured has left the Australian rugby team with few lineup choices.

Australian Wallbies player Pat McCabe has suffered a broken neck, forcing him into retirement and placing the team in a tight spot. (AFP)

Wallaby back Pat McCabe has retired from rugby after fracturing his neck for a third time, his ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old suffered a jarring knock on Saturday night in Australia’s 51-20 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park, and Larkham said a meeting with a specialist on Tuesday had confirmed another fracture.

“[It’s] very disappointing news, actually. He had a scan over in New Zealand and it was reported to have had a little fracture in his neck,” Larkham said.

“He’s since seen a specialist in Sydney and the specialist has confirmed it is a fracture in there, and that he strongly suggests never to play ever again.

Larkham said that he thinks McCabe has “made the decision that he’s not going to play again”.

McCabe first fractured his neck in 2012 on the Wallabies European tour and suffered another neck injury in the 23-21 loss to the British and Irish Lions at Brisbane last year,ruled him out for the season.

“The good thing is he’s in a neck brace at the moment and will stay in that neck brace for the next couple of months and the neck should heal up fine, but (it’s) devastating that he won’t play rugby again,” said Larkham.

McCabe has played 24 Tests for Australia.

Down to bare bones
Australia coach Ewen McKenzie admitted he was down to bare bones in some departments after losing McCabe and hooker Nathan Charles to a season-ending injury.

Charles, who got his chance after injuries to Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a pectoral tear he sustained at Eden Park.

Uncapped centre Kyle Godwin, scheduled to return this weekend after four months in the sidelines, was brought in to the squad to bolster the backline along with 29-test hooker Saia Faingaa, who is likely to back up James Hanson in Perth.

Polota-Nau, who suffered a knee injury in the Super Rugby final, was also included in the squad but will definitely not play the Springboks and is an outside chance to face Argentina on the Gold Coast the following week.

“We’re digging deep in the hooking area,” McKenzie said.

“James played really well the other day and Saia has the experience.

“With Tatafu, I have an idea in my head that if we have him with the group, he won’t be far away for the Pumas match. Next week’s a stretch but the week after is looking more positive.”

McKenzie said it was hugely disappointing for Charles to suffer another serious injury after he missed much of the 2013 season because of a knee problem.

“He’s done outstandingly well and made a big contribution to this Wallabies squad, particularly technically,” he said.

Not available
The versatile and pacy Godwin would probably have already made his test debut had he not suffered from a string of injuries over the last couple of years.

The 22-year-old missed the back end of the Super Rugby season for the Western Force because of a knee injury and is scheduled to make his return in the National Rugby Championship this weekend.

“We’ve been impressed with him for some time, he just hasn’t been available at the right time,” McKenzie added.

“We want to see him and put him in among some of the players and see what he’s like. Hopefully we haven’t jumped the gun on him [but] whether he plays or not is another matter.”

Adam Ashley-Cooper is almost certain to start against the Springboks, but his listing in the squad as one of four “back three” players indicated to some that he might not retain his position at outside centre.

“That’s just the way we’ve listed it,” McKenzie said. “But, obviously, again, we’re getting thinner in the wing department.” – Sapa; Reuters

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