Sydney - Wallabies captain David Pocock will be sidelined for up to three months following knee surgery, the Australian team said on Tuesday, in a major blow ahead of a key weekend clash with the All Blacks.
Pocock underwent keyhole surgery in Sydney on Tuesday to repair damage to the articular cartilage of his right knee suffered during Australia's 27-19 defeat to New Zealand in the opening Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship match on Saturday.
The Bledisloe Cup is a three-match series between Australia and New Zealand and this year the first two matches will occur during the four nation Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies said Pocock, Australia's first-choice openside flank and twice a finalist for the IRB International Player of the Year, was expected to be out of action for up to three months following the operation.
"The recommended timeline for rehabilitation means that Pocock will not take any further part in the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship, while his availability for November's Spring Tour is also considered doubtful," the team said in a statement.
Halfback Will Genia will assume Pocock's duties as skipper, with Michael Hooper or uncapped Queensland Reds player Liam Gill in contention to replace him on the field for the remainder of the four-nations Championship series, which also includes South Africa and Argentina.
Australia will on Thursday unveil its side for Saturday's do-or-die Bledisloe Cup clash against the All Blacks in Auckland, which they must win to prevent the New Zealanders from holding the title for a 10th consecutive year.
The Wallabies have not won at Eden Park since 1986, and coach Robbie Deans also faces a selection headache over whether to retain Kurtley Beale at fullback or recall mercurial flyhalf Quade Cooper.
Beale put in an error-strewn showing on Saturday, but Cooper fell short of expectations at last year's World Cup where he was relentlessly jeered and booed by All Blacks fans, and is still recovering from a knee injury.
Deans has said he is considering the polarising Cooper as an option for Saturday, despite his likely hostile reception from the New Zealand crowd over alleged cheap shots on their side's veteran captain Richie McCaw.