Wellington - All Blacks captain Richie McCaw faces a lengthy rehabilitation after undergoing surgery to repair the foot injury that caused considerable national anxiety during the recent Rugby World Cup.
McCaw will not be able to resume training for 10 to 12 weeks and will miss the start of the 2012 Super Rugby tournament.
The 30-year-old openside flank had a screw removed from his right foot and received a bone graft in an operation performed on Thursday. New Zealand team doctor Deb Robinson says the procedure "went well."
"In addition, he had an x-ray prior to surgery which showed the bone had started to heal to some extent in the four weeks since the end of the Rugby World Cup, which is good news," Robinson said.
McCaw was troubled by the injury in the latter stages of New Zealand's recent World Cup win, taking only a limited part in training during the final weeks of the tournament.
After the All Blacks lost star flyhalf Dan Carter to injury prior to the knockout phase, the prospect of losing McCaw worried New Zealanders who were hoping to see their team win the World Cup for the first time in 24 years.
McCaw played in New Zealand's quarterfinal against Argentina and semifinal against Australia while in considerable pain, then played a vital role in its 8-7 final win over France.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry said after the match he was shocked to see how swollen and how painful McCaw's foot and was astonished he had been able to play with such a serious injury.
"He can hardly walk and how he played today I just don't know," Henry said after McCaw had limped onto the podium to receive the Webb Ellis Cup.
"He will have some time out now. That he got through it was down to his heart and determination. He is the best leader this country has ever had."