Australia’s Sharpe to win 100th cap against Wales
Australia lock Nathan Sharpe will win his 100th test cap in Friday’s Rugby World Cup third-place playoff after being named in the starting line-up on Wednesday.
Australia coach Robbie Deans brought the 33-year-old lock, who made his debut against France in 2002, back into the side after leaving him out for the semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
Deans has overhauled the team that were humbled by the All Blacks at Eden Park last weekend with an entirely new front row and two thirds of his back row also changed.
Kurtley Beale returns at fullback after missing last weekend’s match with a hamstring problem, while Berrick Barnes replaces Pat McCabe at inside centre.
Four of the changes were enforced by injuries to McCabe (shoulder), lock Dan Vickerman (shoulder, leg and nose), prop Sekope Kepu (eye) and hooker Stephen Moore (sternum).
Deans decided to drop prop Ben Alexander to the bench to “lighten his load” after an arduous international season, while flanker and former captain Rocky Elsom was left out of the squad altogether.
Ben McCalman takes over at number eight with Radike Samo dropping to the bench and Scott Higginbotham playing on the blindside flank in place of Elsom.
In the front row, Salesi Ma’afu gets his first start of the tournament at tighthead prop alongside hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and James Slipper, who both came off the bench against New Zealand.
Sharpe will be the fifth Australian to record a century of caps after David Campese, George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and George Smith.
Australia lost their only previous World Cup third-place playoff at the inaugural 1987 tournament, going down 22-21 to the Welsh at Rotorua.
Team — 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-James O’Connor, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Berrick Barnes, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-David Pocock, 6-Scott Higginbotham, 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-James Horwill (captain), 3-Salesi Ma’afu, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-James Slipper
Replacements: 16-Saia Faingaa, 17-Ben Alexander, 18-Rob Simmons, 19-Radike Samo, 20-Luke Burgess, 21-Anthony Faingaa, 22-Rob Horne.