Australia flanker David Pocock could be out of action for the rest of the year after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Australian Rugby Union has said.
The 24-year-old suffered the injury playing in a Super Rugby game for the ACT Brumbies against the New South Wales Waratahs last weekend, and had already been ruled out for the British and Irish Lions' tour of Australia later this year.
"I'm pleased to have the surgery out of the way," Pocock said in an ARU statement today.
"Now I need to rest up and get myself ready to start the rehabilitation process. The key thing is that I'm patient and don't try to rush back.
"If that means season over, in terms of playing any more rugby this year, then so be it. Once I get into the rehabilitation, we'll see how it goes,'' added Pocock, who missed several months of rugby last year after suffering cartilage damage in his right knee.
Pocock, who has played 45 tests since his debut in 2008, was one of four players to captain Australia last season as the Wallabies were hit by a catalogue of injuries.
Incumbent captain James Horwill has still not played since last May because of injury but the lock is expected to make his return for the Queensland Reds over the next few weeks.
Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper is the most likely replacement for Pocock in the number seven jersey after several impressive performances for Australia at the back end of last year.
Queensland youngster Liam Gill is also in fine form but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans may reconsider 110-cap flanker George Smith as an option.
Smith, 32, replaced Pocock for the Brumbies on Saturday, making his first Super Rugby appearance since 2010, but is still attached to his Japanese club and there are question marks about his eligibility.
Deans said last week that Smith would not be considered for the tests against the Lions in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Which rugby player who's off overseas would you most like to see back playing in NZ?