SYDNEY, Australia -- Veteran lock Nathan Sharpe has again postponed his rugby retirement and confirmed he's available for Australia's tour to Europe next month.
The Australian Rugby Union issued a statement Thursday saying Sharpe had extended his career, at the request of coach Robbie Deans, to help the Wallabies cover a long injury list.
The 34-year-old Sharpe became Australia's most-capped international forward when he led the Wallabies to a gritty win at Argentina last weekend in his 111th test.
He planned to retire after the upcoming test against New Zealand, but will now be available for tests against France, England, Italy and Wales.
Sharpe became Australia's fourth captain of 2012 -- behind James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia, who were all injured -- and guided the Wallabies to home and away win over Argentina and an away loss in South Africa.
ARU chief John O'Neill said the way Sharpe has "taken to the leadership in the face of adversity with the side losing three previous captains to injury, has been magnificent."
"For them to finish second in the Rugby Championship despite the setbacks encountered during the campaign have been a testament to the contribution he made as captain."
Sharpe, who was seemingly on the selection outer at last year's World Cup, had planned to retire after 2012 Super rugby season, but was enticed to continue after Horwill was injured.
"Playing for Australia is something I have never taken for granted. As such, to be asked to continue beyond the deadline I had set for myself was both flattering but also a request that was very difficult to turn down," Sharpe said. "The opportunity to lead the Wallabies again on what will be a challenging but exciting tour was too tempting. It is not easy to say no to your country."
Deans said Sharpe's influence on the injury-depleted squad "has been immense."
"He is arguably playing the best rugby of his career," Deans said. "Sharpey's presence and leadership has been a constant throughout the year -- one of the few aspects of continuity that we've had through a season that is probably without precedent in terms of disruption."