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Thread: Sharpe to be named for Wallabies as fellow stalwarts poised to miss

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    Sharpe to be named for Wallabies as fellow stalwarts poised to miss

    Sharpe to be named for Wallabies as fellow stalwarts poised to miss

    May 27, 2010

    VETERAN Wallabies second-rower Nathan Sharpe is standing tall as the last of a dying breed. Today's announcement of an injury-affected 30-man Test squad for the opening four Tests of the winter will include Sharpe's name but may serve as last rites for fellow Australian rugby stalwarts.

    Former skipper Stirling Mortlock is already a goner due to injury, 33-year-old prop Al Baxter is all but certain to be overlooked and breakdown warrior Phil Waugh is 50-50 at best.

    And with George Smith announcing his international retirement this year, Sharpe should be the last player standing to have started in the 2003 World Cup final loss to England.

    Mortlock, Baxter, Waugh and Smith all played in the extra-time 20-17 defeat at Sydney's Olympic stadium and remained Test regulars until last year.

    Melbourne Rebels-bound Mortlock's star has faded but a worrying nerve problem in his back has taken a decision out of the selectors' hands.

    Baxter has been unable to make a recovery from referees' perceptions he is a problem scrummager.

    With 110-Test flanker Smith off the scene, as well as the other experienced hands, Waugh would feel he deserves to add to his tally of 79 caps after showing fine leadership for New South Wales in its Super 14 campaign. But the Waratahs' 25-6 semi-final loss won't have helped his cause for a recall after coach Robbie Deans left him at home during last year's grand slam tour of the British Isles.

    David Pocock is Australia's stand-out No. 7, while Western Force teammate Matt Hodgson had an outstanding Super 14 campaign, starring for the injury-hit Force at both openside and blindside flanker.

    Deans showed his hand last year by picking Hodgson in his initial Wallabies team, ahead of Waugh, but the late-blooming 28-year-old suffered a bad shoulder injury in his debut against the Barbarians.

    Sharpe, who has stormed back from a shoulder injury of his own to be the first second-rower picked, said Hodgson deserved to be rewarded with a Test cap after the disappointment of 2009.

    "He carried a huge workload this year and epitomises a guy you want to play rugby with," the Force skipper said. "He can play anywhere in the back row and he's adapted himself to all the positions in the last five years. He's a pretty special player like that."

    In spite of serious injuries to starting forwards Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, James Horwill and Wycliff Palu, Sharpe said the competition for squad spots showed how much the playing depth had improved.

    "There's a heap of choice for this 30-man Test squad and I don't think in the past we had that," he said. "There's a lot more depth in terms of guys coming through."

    The Super 14 injury toll has opened the door for a number of players, including young Queensland front-rowers Saia Faingaa, Ben Daley and Laurie Weeks, to be rewarded for their efforts in the Reds' revival.

    NSW hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is carrying ankle and shoulder problems and he may also get a break from duty, while star half-back Will Genia will miss at least the opening Test against Fiji on June 5 with a knee injury.

    AAP

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    Legend Contributor blueandblack's Avatar
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    Wonder what the "news"papers wrote when Waugh, Smith, Mortlock and Baxter took the Wallaby position of those before them. Probably exactly the same thing but with names changed.

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    Veteran Contributor hertryk's Avatar
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    Sharpie has to be picked for Captain..has to be..

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