Nathan Sharpe was named as Australia’s third on-field captain of 2012 and will lead a team featuring four starting changes for this weekend’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina on the Gold Coast.
Sharpe, 34, takes over from the injured Will Genia and will be partnered by Test newcomer Kane Douglas in the second row. Nick Phipps replaces Genia at scrum-half, while Pat McCabe’s recall at inside center sent Berrick Barnes to full-back and dropped Kurtley Beale to the reserves bench.
Sharpe becomes Australia’s fifth captain in 13 months following Rocky Elsom, James Horwill, David Pocock and Genia. Pocock and Genia suffered knee injuries that ruled them out for at least the rest of the championship, while regular skipper Horwill ruptured his hamstring in May.
The Wallabies beat South Africa 26-19 three days ago to secure their first victory in the expanded tournament. World champion New Zealand tops the standings with 12 points after three of six rounds, a lead of five over South Africa, with Australia on four points and Argentina on two.
“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 said in a team statement.
Beale will sit on the bench for the second time in three matches after also being dropped following last month’s opener against the All Blacks.
Barnes’s goal-kicking success rate of 86 percent this year was a key factor in his retention in the team ahead of Beale, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said. Barnes, who booted four penalties and two conversions against the Springboks for a perfect record from his six shots at goal, starts at full-back for the first time.
“Berrick has good grounding at the back while his ability to take just about every point-scoring opportunity on offer was highlighted once again last weekend,” Deans said.
The 6-foot-6, 269-pound Douglas, 23, was chosen ahead of Rob Simmons to replace the injured Sitaleki Timani in the second row alongside Sharpe, who is the only member of the 22-man squad to have faced the Pumas before.
That match at the 2003 World Cup in Sydney was Argentina’s last appearance in Australia. The Wallabies won 12 of their 17 previous matches.
Their latest meeting will be the first elite Test match to be played on the Gold Coast.
“No one else in the squad has played Argentina before but I have and they will be tough, incredibly passionate and uncompromising,” added Sharpe, who has said he’ll retire at the end of the championship.
Pumas coach Santiago Phelan later announced two changes to the team that started last week’s 21-5 defeat in New Zealand, bringing in Martin Landajo and Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino to replace Nicolas Vergallo and Martin Rodriguez at scrum-half and full-back, respectively.
AUSTRALIA: Berrick Barnes, Dominic 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/Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Anthony Fainga’a, Kurtley Beale.
ARGENTINA: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla, Juan Martin Hernandez, Martin Landajo, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Julio Farias Cabello, Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu, Rodrigo Roncero.
Reserves: Agustin Creevy, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Leonardi, Nicolas Vergallo, Martin Rodriguez, Juan Imhoff.
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