Brumbies centre Pat McCabe has been given first dibs at centre alongside Andrew Smith, with Tevita Kuridrani on the bench and Christian Lealiifano injured.

There were times hard running Wallabies centre Pat McCabe doubted he’d ever reach his upcoming 50th Super Rugby match during the long road to recovery from successive broken necks.

Yet the Brumbies inside centre will achieve that milestone this Saturday when he makes his long awaited return alongside superstar flanker David Pocock in the season opener against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium.

With incumbent inside centre Christian Lealiifano still recovering from ankle surgery, the Brumbies have thrown their full support behind McCabe’s rehabilitation by giving him first dibs at No.12 ahead of several other strong candidates.

It shows just how highly they rate the 25-year-old, who has played just a tad over 80 minutes during trials since breaking his neck for the second time in seven months against the British and Irish Lions last July.

“There were a few times with both injuries that I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen (with my future),” McCabe said.

“But I’m really happy to be here, and to play all (50 games) with the Brumbies is something I’m really proud of.”

And while the pre-match nerves are still there, McCabe insists all doubts in the strength of his neck are long gone.

“It was twice in the same spot,” he said.

“The second time it has healed a lot stronger than it did the first time, and the scans look a lot better.”

Despite McCabe receiving a head knock in just the 15th minute of his return match against the Highlanders three weeks ago, Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said the 20-Test back showed no lack of confidence in last week’s trial against the ACT XV.

“He was fantastically robust, Fisher said”

“I see a bloke ready to go and ready to show what he’s capable of doing.”

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Andrew Smith, Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Jarrad Butler, David Pocock, Ben Mowen (c), Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Res: Siliva Siliva, Ruan Smith, Ruaidhri Murphy, Leon Power, Lachlan McCaffrey, Conrad Hoffman, Tevita Kuridrani, Lionel Cronje.