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Australian veteran Sharpe to retire

Updated: February 09, 2012, 20:39

PERTH, Australia(AP) Australian second rower and 101-test veteran Nathan Sharpe says he will retire from competitive rugby at the end of the upcoming Super 15 season.

Sharpe, who turns 34 this month, said Friday he wanted to end speculation about his future and ensure his focus was only on helping his Western Force team to make the playoffs for the first time.

Sharpe is tied for fourth as the most-capped Wallabies player, behind George Gregan, George Smith and Stephen Larkham and equal with David Campese.

He debuted in 2002 and was still in the Wallabies ranks last year, playing at the World Cup in New Zealand.

"It is an emotional time for me,'' Sharpe said in a statement. "It's one of those decisions you mull over and think 'are you going too early or too late' and I wasn't really sure of that until recently.

"I've been incredibly lucky right through my career to have been involved with some great people and great teams. I've got one more shot at winning a title and I don't intend on fading away. I want to finish with my best Super rugby season yet, that's the way I want to exit the game.''

An inaugural marquee signing for the Western Force from Queensland, Sharpe captained the Perth-based franchise since they started in Super rugby in 2006 and is entering his 15th season in topflight rugby.

Coach Richard Graham recently began the transition by handing the Force leadership to Wallabies flanker David Pocock.

"I've had a wonderful time playing rugby, have seen some pretty special things over my time and cherished every single moment of it,'' said Sharpe.

Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said Sharpe deserved to finish his career on a high.

"Nathan has been one of this country's great players for more than a decade, he has never shied away from a contest and has given his all no matter if he was wearing a Queensland, Western Force or Wallabies jersey,'' O'Neill said.

"The commitment he's shown and the work he has done both on and off the field at the Western Force has been commendable.''

Sharpe's retirement means he will not take part in the expanded southern hemisphere Rugby Championship, which features Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.

"The statistics of his career on their own are impressive but they only tell a small part of the story,'' Australia coach Robbie Deans said. "For most, it is the quality of the man, his longevity and his dedication to the pursuit of excellence that will be recalled, long after he has hung up his boots for the final time.''

Sharpe will open the season with the Force on Feb. 24 against the ACT Brumbies at Canberra.

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