Western Force forwards coach Nick Stiles has been left shocked by Nathan Sharpe and his Australian Rugby Union snub, saying the Wallabies main-stay deserved better considering he’s still one of the world’s best locks.
Sharpe, who is keen to stay on at the Force next season, has not been offered a Wallabies contract top-up for next year despite maintaining his superb run of form at both Super Rugby and international level.
The 33-year-old veteran of 93 Tests has instead been offered an incentive-based contract with the ARU that will only kick in if he plays at least six Tests in 2012.
Sharpe is expected to play a key role for the Wallabies at the upcoming Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and Stiles was left baffled by the contract snub.
“Nathan Sharpe just keeps getting better, even though he is getting older,” Stiles said.
“His performances over the last two years have been outstanding to the point where he is one of the best second rowers in world rugby, let alone Australian rugby.
“In his games this season, he has played really well and he’s going to be a very strong part of the Wallabies squad at the World Cup.
“It’s a bit of a surprise, but the ARU are obviously hedging their bets a little bit with his age.
“If it was me I would definitely be offering him something.”
Meanwhile, star back James O’Connor has escaped the Force’s injury woes after medical staff cleared him of any serious damage to his neck.
O’Connor was in obvious discomfort after rolling awkwardly on his neck in the dying stages of Saturday’s 22-22 draw with the Blues.
But the 20-year-old has recovered well and is expected to be fit to tackle the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday night.
The match will see Force coach Richard Graham go head to head with his predecessor and current Lions coach John Mitchell.
Mitchell coached the Force for five seasons before jumping ship to the Lions, who last week broke a 23-month losing streak with a 25-20 triumph over fellow strugglers the Cheetahs.
The Force are desperate to notch a win after posting two losses and a draw from their first three outings.
O’Connor has starred at five-eighth in the absence of New Zealand playmaker Willie Ripia, who is yet to play a game for the Force after injuring his foot during the pre-season.
The former Hurricanes fly half has cast away his moon boot but must prove his fitness at training on Tuesday in order to book his ticket for the two-game trip to South Africa.
by Buford Balony