The Wallabies' hopes of keeping their Bledisloe Cup quest alive at Eden Park on Saturday sustained a potentially mortal blow today with confirmation their captain David Pocock require an operation on his knee.
Pocock sustained cartilage damage to his right knee during the first half of the All Blacks' 27-19 victory at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday and although he completed the contest he was in considerable discomfort.
The world-class flanker is booked to undergo keyhole surgery in Sydney tomorrow, ruling him out of a match the Wallabies must win prevent the All Blacks retaining the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy before the third trans-Tasman clash at Brisbane in October.
Scans yesterday suggested Pocock would be doubtful to wage another breakdown battle with Richie McCaw and his demise was confirmed this morning, after consultation with a surgeon.
He is expected to be replaced by Michael Hooper, his understudy during the June internationals against Scotland and Wales. Uncapped Australian under-20s captain Liam Gill is likely to be named on the bench as coach Robbie Deans persists with including two specialist No 7s in his 22-man squad.
Halfback Will Genia, who captained the Wallabies for the first time in their World Cup pool game against the United States last year, takes over as skipper.
There was no indication when Pocock would be able to return to the squad.
"We'll wait and see I guess," he said.
"He (the surgeon) said he wanted to avoid putting a time line on it till after he actually got in to have a look because there's only so much you can see on an MRI."
Pocock, who succeeded lock James Horwill as captain when the lock suffered a serious hamstring injury during Super Rugby, was naturally disappointed to be ruled out of a potentially season-defining test.
"It's hugely disappointing. Our performance (last weekend) was disappointing and not being able to back up after that and have another go this weekend is not ideal.
"I'll get into the rehab and do everything I can to get back as soon as I can."
Pocock, who does not have a history of knee injuries, said he felt the joint "pinch" about 30 minutes into the opening half.
"I skirted around a ruck, stepped off it and felt a bit of a pinch and I was pretty sore from there on in," he said.
Once the procedure is complete, his priority was to help prepare Hooper and Gill for a daunting assignment against an All Black team that dominated the breakdown last weekend.
"They're both very capable players. I'll definitely have a few chats to them and we'll go through some footage. I'll be giving them as much, or as little, advice as they want," said Pocock.
"It's such a huge opportunity, I'm sure they'll be itching to get out there."
Deans also put a brave face on the Wallabies' predicament as they venture to a ground where the All Blacks are unbeaten since 1994.
"It's obviously not ideal but that's the way it is, it's part of the game," he said.
"He leaves a hole in any group. The good thing is we've got a couple of good young fellas behind him. I've got no doubt they'll enter the fray with enthusiasm."
The Wallabies had a light training run today and continue their preparations in Sydney before heading to Auckland on Thursday, shortly after the team is announced.
Polarising playmaker Quade Cooper is likely to be involved in some capacity after being overlooked for the June tests and the opening phase of the Rugby Championship as he made a measured recovery from a serious knee injury.
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