The Wallabies have discovered their leadership group is jinxed, with Will Genia the only man left standing after captain David Pocock discovered yesterday he may have played his last match for the season.
Pocock will have key-hole surgery on his right knee today, and the Wallabies are already preparing to be without their world-class openside breakaway for at least the rest of the Rugby Championship.
Pocock, who suffered cartilage damage in the Sydney Bledisloe Cup loss, will not know until after surgery whether even the end-of-season Wallabies tour of Europe remains an option.
At the start of the season the Wallabies appointed a leadership group comprising James Horwill, Pocock, Genia, Pat McCabe and James O'Connor.
Horwill, McCabe, O'Connor and now Pocock are all sidelined through injury, and the test halfback, who will take over the captaincy duties against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday night, is the only one left.
But Genia does not believe he will be a lonely leader when he takes the team to New Zealand on Thursday night in a vain bid to keep the cup series alive.
Genia stressed yesterday he would be surrounded by experienced performers who would not be intimidated by the All Blacks at their favourite ground - Eden Park - where the Wallabies haven't won since 1986.
''We are a very resilient group, and know we were very inaccurate in a lot of things we did during last weekend's test, but the most disappointing thing was that we didn't start the way we wanted to,'' Genia said.
''We're going to be hard on ourselves this week, and not look for soft options. We will work on getting the mindset right.
''Captaincy is also a responsibility I enjoy. But that's not my focus. We had a disappointing result on Saturday and we want to fix a lot of things. That this week's focus.''
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, who gave Genia the reins against the USA in last year's World Cup, said he was the type of pugnacious leader required in easily Australia's most important international of the season.
''Will responds to every responsibility, and he doesn't back off from any challenge. He's always been a big source of ignition in our group, and our game. And he now will have a greater presence off the field as well,'' Deans said.
Genia also provided some hope that the stagnant Wallabies attack, which has scored only six tries in Australia's five tests so far this season, would be more proactive in New Zealand. He was convinced either Michael Hooper or Liam Gill would adequately cover for Pocock.
''David is a massive loss, and his impact is going to be missed because he is a world-class player,'' Genia said.
''But it opens the door for Michael Hooper and Liam Gill, and it's a chance for both to see what they're made of.
''Most importantly we need to want the ball more. We can look to be a bit more attacking with ball in hand as a back line. We were a little bit passive and probably relied too much on the forwards.''
Pocock said he hurt his knee about 30 minutes into the Sydney test.
''I skirted around a ruck, stepped off it, felt a little bit of a pinch, and it felt pretty sore from there on.
''I decided to stay on because I was pretty keen to do everything I could to stay in the game and finish it off.''
Now he will act as mentor for Hooper and Gill. ''I will give them as much or as little advice as they want.''
The Wallabies back-row stocks have been further diminished with test No 8 Ben McCalman sidelined for at least three months with a fractured forearm.
The team offered no clues at yesterday's training at Coogee Oval if there would be a dramatic back-line revamp, including Quade Cooper at No 10. Numerous test players did not train, and the session, not surprisingly, focused on improving the team's ball skills.
- FFX Aus