Nathan Sharpe will lead the Force out for his 162nd and final Super Rugby game this coming weekend. Photo by Getty Images.
Lock Nathan Sharpe will return to the starting line-up as captain for his final match with the Emirates Western Force against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The 34-year-old, who will complete his rugby career with the Wallabies during the inaugural Rugby Championship later this year, was forced out of last weekend’s match against the Blues in Auckland just hours before kick-off with a back injury. He will resume his place in the second row for a record 162nd FxPro Super Rugby cap.
“My back’s fine, I got through today’s session and I should be right for the game,” Sharpe said.
“I’ve been focusing more on getting my injury right this week and so I haven’t thought too much about it being my last game. Tomorrow will be my last training session and then into my final game with the Force on Saturday – it’s something that’s exciting but bittersweet at the same time.
“As far as Saturday goes, you don’t get a tougher challenge in Super Rugby than playing the Crusaders in Christchurch and it’d be fantastic to come over and put together a great performance against them.”
Sharpe’s inclusion is one of four new faces in the starting XV with Tetera Faulkner earning his first run-on start against last year’s competition runners-up, having previously received caps off the bench against the Rebels (in 2011) and Blues last weekend.
The Emirates Western Force will unleash a new midfield combination with Rory Sidey replacing the injured Winston Stanley (dislocated shoulder) at inside centre and Pat Dellit promoted off the bench in favour of Will Tupou.
Emirates Western Force Defence & Skills Coach Phil Blake says his side will be looking for a positive end to the FxPro Super Rugby season, not least of all to provide a fitting farewell to the club’s inaugural captain.
“We’re looking for individuals to embrace the challenge before them on Saturday and if we can do that as individuals, then collectively we’ll get the result that we want,” Blake said.
“It’s great to have Sharpie back for his last game; he brings a lot of composure and experience and we’ll look to that on Saturday night. It’s been terrific to see him back training and it’ll be great to see him back on the field on Saturday night.”
The Emirates Western Force bench has also been revamped with Pek Cowan, Will Tupou and last weekend’s debutante Ollie Atkins, who started in place of Sharpe against the Blues, all reverting back to the reserves list.
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