Nathan Sharpe added to Wallabies coaching team

Getty Images and James Mortimer     01 May 2013     Getty Images

Although Australia’s most capped forward never received the opportunity to play a Test against the combined side himself; Sharpe has signed on to assist the Wallaby forwards ahead of this year’s British & Irish Lions tour of Australia.

The recently retired second rower, who hung up his boots after last year’s Spring Tour with 116 Test appearances to his name, will lend that experience to Australia’s preparations for this year’s highly anticipated series; placing a particular emphasis on the Wallaby lineout.

“It was nice to be asked to be involved. I’m looking forward to doing all I can to help get the team ready for what is coming,” Sharpe says.

Although he harbours no regrets at having drawn the curtain down on his playing career the year before the Lions arrived; Sharpe says the prospect of donning the track suit again to play his part as a consultant to the coaching staff was too tempting to turn down.

“It’s a once every 12 years opportunity isn’t it?” Sharpe says.

“I’d like to have played for Australia against the Lions but it wasn’t to be. The fact that you can play for 11 seasons at Test level as I did and not get to play against them shows both how rare the opportunity is, but also how much of a privilege it will be for the guys that get to represent the Wallabies in this series.”

Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says the decision to involve Sharpe was a straight forward one.

“It’s appropriate,” Deans says.

“Perhaps the only difference from the role he had last year is that he won’t be putting his boots on. His experience, leadership and tactical nous will be available to both the playing group and the coaching staff as it was last year. That’s a great resource for us to have, given the unique nature of the British & Irish Lions.

“It also provides him with an opportunity he deserves to have an active role with the Wallabies in what will be a very special series.”

Deans believes Sharpe will seamlessly make the transition from player to coaching consultant within the team environment.

Sharpe will join the Wallaby camp during each Test week for the duration of the Lions series, assisting forwards coach Andrew Blades.

He will also continue with his off-field television role, where he is in his first-year as part of the Fox Sports commentary team.

Fox, along with Australian Rugby’s free-to-air broadcast partner Channel 10, will show all three Test matches live.

Last year saw Sharpe retire after an international career which saw him represent Australia on more occasions than all but one of the 866 players who have appeared in Tests for the Wallabies.

Only current Australian Rugby Union board member George Gregan, whose record of 139 Test appearances is a world record, has played for Australia more times than has Sharpe, who himself bowed out as the sixth most capped player in the history of the game.

Captain of the Wallabies at the time of standing down, Sharpe played his final Test as Australia closed 2012 with a 14-12 win over Wales in Cardiff.

He led his country on 10 occasions, six times in 2012, for six wins, a draw and three defeats.

The win in Cardiff was the 70th that Sharpe had shared in from his 116 Tests. Only Gregan (93 wins from 139 appearances) featured in more winning Australian teams.

Although he did play for Queensland in a tour match against the Lions during the combined side’s last visit in 2001, it was not until the following year that Sharpe first wore Wallaby Gold, making his Test debut against France at Melbourne.

Sharpe was a two-time winner of the John Eales Medal during his career.

Another notable addition to the coaching staff is Scott Murphy, who takes over in the Strength & Conditioning field.

An Australian, Murphy returns home after successfully overseeing the S & C programme at English Premiership leaders Saracens, who featured in last weekend’s European Cup semi-finals.

The Qantas Wallabies coaching staff for 2013 is:

Head Coach: Robbie Deans

Coaching Coordinator: Tony McGahan

Assistant-Coach: Andrew Blades

Coaches-Assistant: Nick Scrivener

Coaching Consultant: Nathan Sharpe