x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Australia veteran Nathan Sharpe delays retirement again after European tour appeal

The 34-year-old had already postponed his exit from the sport to play for Australia in the Rugby Championship, but will extend his career by turning out for Robbie Deans' side in their European Test series next month.

Australia lock Nathan Sharpe reaches for the ball during a lineout against Argentina in the Rugby Championship
Australia lock Nathan Sharpe reaches for the ball during a lineout against Argentina in the Rugby Championship

Veteran Australia star Nathan Sharpe is to postpone his retirement again after answering a mayday call from Robbie Deans to play in the four-Test tour of Europe next month.

The 34-year-old had previously announced in February he would quit all competitive rugby at the end of July to move into the resources industry, while also working as a media commentator.

But he was enticed into staying on for the inaugural Rugby Championship following injuries to James Horwill and the forced retirement of Dan Vickerman.

He had an exceptional tournament, taking the captaincy when injury hit David Pocock and then Will Genia, and agreed to remain with the squad for the Tests against England, France, Italy and Wales from November 10.

"Playing for Australia is something I have never taken for granted," said Sharpe.

"As such, to be asked to continue beyond the deadline I had set for myself was both flattering but also a request that was very difficult to turn down.

"The opportunity to lead the Wallabies again on what will be a challenging but exciting tour was too tempting. It is not easy to say no to your country."

Last weekend in Argentina, Sharpe became Australia's most capped forward, and second most capped player ever, taking the field for his 111th Test in their 25-19 win over Argentina.

Deans said the decision to ask him to continue was logical given his experience and the fact that several senior players would not be ready to return as starters.

"You only have to look at what he has achieved with the group since he took over as captain," Deans said.

"His influence has been immense, he is arguably playing the best rugby of his career but, most importantly, he is enjoying the experience.

"Sharpey's presence and leadership has been a constant throughout the year - one of the few aspects of continuity that we've had through a season that is probably without precedent in terms of disruption."