Wallabies forward Nathan Sharpe has agreed to extend his career for another two months, enabling the 104-Test veteran to compete in the inaugural Rugby Championship which features former Tri Nations teams, plus Argentina.
Coach Robbie Deans confirmed this morning that Sharpe will be available for Australia's six Tests in the Rugby Championship following the hamstring injury to James Horwill that is likely to result in the Wallabies skipper missing the rest of the season.
Sharpe's lineout jumping will be a big asset to the Wallabies in the coming months, particularly against South Africa.
Sharpe was due to retire at the completion of the Western Force's Super Rugby season next month.
"Sharpie's indicated he’s willing and keen to continue into the Rugby Championship, so that’s good news for the team,’’ said Deans.
‘‘He’s vastly experienced, been in this arena for a long time and you saw evidence of that in the death in the game the other night (win over Wales in second Test).’’
Deans said the decision to continue on wasn’t as straight forward as it would seem for the 34-year-old Western Force workhorse who debuted for the Wallabies way back in 2002.
‘‘Obviously it’s a big decision for Sharpie because it was a conscious choice of his to communicate that he was going to retire, intending to retire. That’s a big decision in any man’s life particularly a bloke who has played 100 Tests,’’ said Deans.
‘‘He’d made plans around his life beyond the game so he’s had to put them on hold and that’s never straight forward.’’
Deans ruled out the prospect of Sharpe continuing on into the end-of-year spring tour, and said his call to elevate NSW giant Sitaleki Timani to his starting team for Saturday’s final Test against Wales was about preparing for the future.
‘‘Well, clearly the day is coming when Sharpie’s not going to be available to us so we’ve got to prepare for that and we want to get Sita some exposure, bring him on,’’ said Deans, who moved Queensland lock Rob Simmons back to the bench.
‘‘Simmo’s had a big year, he’s played a lot of rugby ... they’re going to have to share that load and, the sooner we can bring guys like Sita on, the better it will be for us.’’
Recalled Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale said Sharpe’s experience was invaluable.‘‘He’s a good man and to have someone of his calibre around the playing group certainly brings a lot of confidence,’’ said Beale.