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Sharpe replaces Genia as Australia captain for Pumas test

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Associated Press
9/10/2012 8:44:41 PM
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GOLD COAST, Australia -- Nathan Sharpe has taken over the captaincy from injured scrumhalf Will Genia and Nick Phipps has slotted into the halfback role in a reshuffled Australian lineup for the Rugby Championship match against Argentina on Saturday.

The 34-year-old Sharpe will be Australia's fourth test captain of the year after James Horwill, David Pocock and Genia all succumbed to long-term injuries.

In other changes, Berrick Barnes moved from centre to fullback to replace Kurtley Beale, who was relegated to the bench. Pat McCabe will return from injury and start at inside centre.

In the second row, Sharpe will partner Kane Douglas, who will become the 10th player to make his debut for Australia in eight test matches when he replaces the injured Sitaleki Timani.

Sharpe will captain Australia for the third time on Saturday in his 109th test match, fittingly in the town in which he spent much of his early life. Gold Coast's Skilled Park will host a test for the first time, becoming Australia's eighth home test venue and the second new venue of the current season after Newcastle hosted the Wallabies' test against Scotland in June.

Sharpe previously led Australia against New Zealand in 2004 and Samoa in 2005.

"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," Sharpe 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 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. No one else in the squad has played Argentina before but I have and they will be tough, incredibly passionate and uncompromising.

"You only have to look at what they have achieved to date in their tournament matches to see what a threat they will be."

Argentina lost narrowly to South Africa in its opening match in the Rugby Championship, drew 16-16 with the Springboks at home, then lost 21-5 to New Zealand on Saturday after holding the All Blacks to 6-5 at halftime.

Coach Robbie Deans expressed confidence in Douglas' ability to form an effective new second row partnership with the veteran Sharpe.

"Kane has been with us a fair while now, has worked hard and provides us with a similar set-piece presence as Sita (Timani) does," Deans said.

"He's a big man so he will help anchor the scrum on the tighthead side in a similar way to how Sita has. Kane also has the benefit of plenty of recent match play under his belt in club rugby, which will help make his introduction to test rugby a little easier."

Phipps will make his fifth test appearance at scrumhalf but only his second in a starting role.

"Nick's had a good grounding, knows our method and has worked hard," Deans said. "He has a great work ethic, is a quality bloke to have in the group as his enthusiasm is infectious, and has handled everything that has been thrown at him as a test player -- including a run as a replacement wing during last year's Rugby World Cup. He's ready to go."

The 33-year-old Brett Sheehan returns after a three-year absence from the Wallabies to take the reserve scrumhalf role.

After opening the series with back-to-back losses to World Cup champion New Zealand, Australia now has the chance for consecutive wins after a grinding, comeback victory over the Springboks.

It will be Argentina's first match in Australia since the 2003 World Cup, when the Pumas lost the opening match to the home team.

The Pumas' only win over the Wallabies in Australia was on their first visit, when the great Hugo Porta inspired them to an upset 18-3 win at Ballymore in 1983.

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

Nathan Sharpe (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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