Higginbotham doesn't regret McCaw incident

RUSSELL JACKSON
Last updated 15:55 19/11/2012
'IT'S JUST FOOTBALL, I SUPPOSE': Scott Higginbotham of the Wallabies runs the ball at Richie McCaw during this year's Bledisloe Cup test in Brisbane.
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'IT'S JUST FOOTBALL, I SUPPOSE': Scott Higginbotham of the Wallabies runs the ball at Richie McCaw during this year's Bledisloe Cup test in Brisbane.

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Wallaby Scott Higginbotham insists he doesn't regret kneeing and headbutting Richie McCaw but admits learning a lesson from the incident which initially cost him a place on the Wallabies' Europe rugby tour.

A gruelling training regimen back in Melbourne has the aggressive flanker ready to hit the ground running for Australia against Italy in Florence on Saturday (Sunday NZT) after serving a two-match suspension.

Coincidentally it was a hefty eight-week suspension handed to his close friend Rob Simmons that resulted in Higginbotham's call up to the tour for the final two games against Italy and Wales.

The Melbourne Rebels' recruit would almost certainly have played in the opening two tests - the loss to France and win over England - if not for the ban he copped for kneeing and headbutting All Blacks captain McCaw in the drawn Brisbane Bledisloe Cup Test.

"I was obviously pretty filthy that I wasn't coming on tour," recalled Higginbotham as the Wallabies travelled from London to Italy.

"I don't regret anything I did. It's just football, I suppose."

But he admitted learning a lesson about pushing the boundaries from the suspension.

"It really did point out where you can get to and where to draw the line," he said.

"It's a physical game but I suppose it (the ban) taught me that that stuff, the off the ball stuff, you can leave out of it I guess."

Former Queensland Reds' player Higginbotham is considered a strong chance to take over at blindside flanker from Dave Dennis against Italy on Saturday (Sunday NZT).

The 26-year-old Higginbotham said he felt for Simmons, who was outed for a lifting tackle in the France Test.

"I obviously watched the game and seeing what Simmo had done I honestly thought he'd get a slap on the wrist, maybe a game," he said.

"Simmo and I are close friends. We've sat next to each other on the bus for about three years, so it's strange how it just had to be him who gets in trouble," he said.

Higginbotham said he did his best to overcome his own disappointment when he missed tour selection by bringing forward his move from Brisbane to Melbourne and getting back to work.

"I just decided seeing as I wasn't going on tour I'd go down to Melbourne and at least train for a month down there while the boys were over here," he said.

"That's the first pre-season I've done in a couple of years now. It was tough.

"It's been good training and good getting that sort of fitness again. Not just game fitness but actual running fitness."

Higginbotham enjoyed a couple of beers with his Wallabies' teammates after watching their win over England at Twickenham and was proud of the side for answering their critics after the shocking effort against France.

"From all the media and everything that was going on at home it was obviously a big challenge for them ... but they all knew that and got the job done which was great."

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