Nathan Sharpe
Nathan Sharpe NZ Herald - Brett Phibbs

Wallabies look to an old head

NATHAN Sharpe started playing rugby union at Southport School after his family moved to the Gold Coast from Wagga Wagga.

Now the 34-year-old is preparing to play where it all started all those years ago - as captain of the Wallabies.

The retiring veteran lock will wear the captain's armband, in what will be his 109th Test, in the Rugby Championship showdown against Argentina at the Gold Coast's Skilled Park on Saturday night.

Sharpe will be Australia's fourth captain of the year following season-ending injuries to James Horwill (hamstring), David Pocock (knee) and Will Genia (knee), and said he was looking forward to it.

"It's rare when you have played at this level for as long as I have to come across something totally new, but to play a Test in my home town is something I would never have imagined happening when I started," he said. "To have the privilege of leading Australia in the first ever Test to be played on the Gold Coast is an experience I will always treasure.

"But the memory is for down the track. For now, it's important we keep our focus as a team, build on what we achieved last weekend in Perth, and add to that momentum."

Sharpe knows the Argentineans will make life tough - he is the only player in the 22-man squad who can vouch for that from personal experience.

The last time the two countries met was at the World Cup in 2003, and Sharpe is the only surviving member of that Wallabies team.

"They will be tough, incredibly passionate and uncompromising," he said. "You only have to look at what they have achieved to date in their tournament matches to see what a threat they will be."

Sharpe will have a new second row partner after Sitaleki Timani, man of the match in the 26-19 win over the Springboks in Perth last Saturday, was ruled out with a hamstring injury. He will be replaced by his NSW Waratahs teammate and Wallabies debutant Kane Douglas.

In other changes to the starting XV, Nick Phipps replaces Genia while inside centre Pat McCabe returns from injury. With McCabe back, Berrick Barnes moves to fullback with the out-of-form Kurtley Beale again dropped to the bench.

Brett Sheehan, picked for his first Test in four years, is the reserve halfback, while hooker Stephen Moore has been bracketed with Saia Fainga'a. A decision on Moore's fitness will be made later in the week.

Wallabies: Berrick Barnes, Dom Shipperley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Nick Phipps; Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe (captian), Kane Douglas, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Stephen Moore/Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Anthony Fainga'a, Kurtley Beale



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