Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe has again shelved retirement plans and will play for Australia on the upcoming European tour.
Sharpe announced his decision yesterday after a request from Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
The Wallabies are nursing several injuries and Deans asked the 34-year-old Sharpe to extend his career once more for the Tests against France, England, Italy and Wales starting next month.
‘‘Playing for Australia is something I have never taken for granted,’’ Sharpe said. ‘‘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.’’
It continues a dramatic turnaround for Sharpe who has gone from a fringe player at last year’s World Cup who planned to retire after the 2012 Super Rugby season to admired national skipper.
The evergreen Sharpe took over the captaincy following injuries to successive incumbents James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia, leading the depleted squad to second place in the inaugural Rugby Championship.
Horwill (hamstring) and Pocock (knee) are a chance to feature on the November 10-December 1 spring tour.
Sharpe led the Wallabies in home and away wins against Argentina in the Rugby Championship and with 111 Tests he is now the second most capped player in Wallabies history behind George Gregan (139).
Deans, who has copped plenty of criticism for his handling of Sharpe during the World Cup, says the big lock is now crucial to the Wallabies’ cause.
‘‘His influence has been immense, he is arguably playing the best rugby of his career but, most importantly, he is enjoying the experience,’’ Deans said.
‘‘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.’’
When Sharpe plays for the Wallabies against New Zealand tomorrow week at Suncorp Stadium he will become the second most capped Australian player to play against the All Blacks.
He will join Gregan on 27 caps against New Zealand, just two Tests behind champion winger David Campese.