Sharpe stays at pointy end just a little longer
Popular guy ... Nathan Sharpe signs autographs at Etihad Stadium after Australia beat Wales last Saturday night. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Wallabies veteran Nathan Sharpe has back-flipped on his decision to retire at the end of the Super Rugby season and is set to continue for the national team in the Rugby Championship.

Australian coach Robbie Deans confirmed Sharpe was willing to delay his exit from the game and play on in the inaugural Rugby Championship against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina in August to October.

At the start of the year, the 104-Test lock announced he would walk away from international rugby after the mid-year June Tests and then rugby in general after the Super Rugby season had wrapped up at the end of July.

With skipper James Horwill expected to be out for the season because of a ruptured hamstring and veteran Dan Vickerman also unavailable, Australia's second-row stocks were starting to look thin.

But Deans convinced Sharpe, a stalwart for Western Force in Super Rugby, to hang in for one more campaign.

"Sharpie has indicated he's willing and keen to continue into the Rugby Championship, so that's good news for the team," Deans said.

"He's vastly experienced, been in this arena for a long time and you saw evidence of that at the death in the game the other night (win over Wales in second Test)."

Deans said the decision to continue wasn't as straightforward as it would seem for the 34-year-old workhorse who debuted for the Wallabies 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," Deans said.

"That's a big decision in any man's life, particularly a bloke who has played 100 Tests.

"He'd made plans around his life beyond the game so he's had to put them on hold and that's never straightforward."

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 in Sydney was about preparing for the future.

"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 full-back 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," Beale said.

The West Australian

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