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Wallabies axe Sharpe for New Zealand

SYDNEY, Australia, August 2 – Veteran lock Nathan Sharpe was axed Tuesday from the Wallabies squad for Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks in Auckland, throwing his World Cup dreams into disarray.

The Western Force captain, who has played 95 Tests, was overlooked in favour of returning veteran Dan Vickerman in a 24-man squad for the Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup Test at Eden Park.

With NSW Waratahs rookie Sitaleki Timani also included, Sharpe’s chances of featuring at the World Cup next month have taken a nosedive.

Vickerman, who played his first Test in about three years in last month’s upset loss to Samoa, will vie with Queenslanders James Horwill and Rob Simmons for the second-row starting roles.

Robbie Deans’ touring group includes 20 of the players who formed the match night squad in Australia’s 39-20 victory over South Africa in Sydney on July 23.

Halfback Luke Burgess is on the plane after recovering from fracturing his hand ahead of the NSW Waratahs’ Super Rugby play-off against the Blues in Auckland five weeks ago.

Winger Lachie Turner is the other player to make the squad who didn’t feature against the Springboks.

They fly to Auckland on Wednesday with a key psychological edge in the lead up to the World Cup in September at stake, as well as the immediate rewards of the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby rivalry.

Australia squad

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Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Pekahou Cowan, Rocky Elsom, Anthony Fainga’a, Saia Fainga’a, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, James O’Connor, David Pocock, Rob Simmons, Sitaleki Timani, Lachie Turner, Dan Vickerman.

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