Rugby: Sharpe winds up against side that offered a start

Nathan Sharpe, right, in action for the Wallabies against Wales. Photo / AP.
Nathan Sharpe, right, in action for the Wallabies against Wales. Photo / AP.


If things had worked out differently, Nathan Sharpe could have been running out for Wales instead of the Wallabies when he plays his 103rd international in Melbourne tonight.

Sharpe returns to Etihad Stadium, the scene of his test debut in 2002, knowing it's likely the penultimate test in a long career.

The 34-year-old lock said this week he'd never say never if requested to continue on to the Rugby Championship later this year.

So far there have been no discussions with Wallabies selectors about playing past the three-test Wales series which he's flagged as his farewell, even with regular captain and lock James Horwill unlikely to be ready for at least the start of the Rugby Championship due to injury.

If things go as planned, Sharpe will hang up his boots after playing the remaining three rounds of Super Rugby for the Western Force. But he's trying not to think about the countdown and to enjoy the moment.

And he expects a more torrid encounter as Six Nations champions Wales look to draw level tonight after losing the opening test in Brisbane.

"This week's match will be a real test for both teams and the intensity will be up," Sharpe said.

Australia's most capped second-rower was approached as a 19-year-old by then Wales coach Graham Henry about playing for the country of his grandfather's birth.

Sharpe said it was nice to hear but not something he ever considered.

"It was a long time ago but obviously I made the right decision."

The Wallabies are preparing for Wales to try to slow the game down and to get to star halfback Will Genia by disrupting his clean and quick supply of ball.

Injured Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu (forearm) and centre Rob Horne (head) are expected to play.

Melbourne, 10 tonight.

Australia: A. Ashley-Cooper, Cooper Vuna, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock (c), S. Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Poloto Nau, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Nic White, Anthony Fainga'a, Mike Harris.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Ashley Beck, George North, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Ryan Jones, Sam Warburton (c), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins.
Reserves: Richard Hibbard, Paul James, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, James Hook, Scott Williams.


- AAP

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