Queenstown - Andrew Sheridan's troublesome left shoulder ended his involvement in the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday and left a big hole to fill in England's front row.
The Rugby Football Union said on Wednesday that Sheridan would return to England for treatment after an injury that blighted his recent career resurfaced after the opening win over Argentina at the weekend.
The giant loosehead prop, who has had two operations on his left shoulder since dislocating it in October 2009 and had only just returned from surgery on his right shoulder, will be unable to resume his place in the 30-man tournament squad.
"It's a big blow to leave the World Cup through injury, but it's a significant injury to the shoulder so I have to deal with that and get on with it now," Sheridan said. "Initially, it just felt a bit sore. But a couple of days post-match it was still pretty painful and that's when I had the scan on it."
Team manager Martin Johnson has yet to announce a replacement for Sheridan, but Alex Corbisiero is likely to fill his spot in the front row for Saturday's second Pool B match against Georgia in Dunedin.
"Sheri worked really hard over the summer to come back from injury and has put in two very good performances," Corbisiero said. "I was aware he had a niggle from the weekend, but I didn't realize the severity of it until I heard a couple of the boys talking about it.
"I just wish him all the best. He's a world-class player. He's a big hero of mine. I think the squad will miss him, but we've just got to get on with it now."
Dan Cole, Matt Stevens and David Wilson are the other remaining props in the squad. Paul Doran-Jones and Tim Payne are contenders to replace Sheridan after being cut following their involvement in an initial training squad.
The 31-year-old Sheridan was out for almost a year after reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder in 2009 and felt the same joint was sore after Saturday's physical 13-9 win over Argentina.
The results of the scan were sent back to Sheridan's club side Sale Sharks in England for analysis while the squad spent five days between games at the winter sports resort of Queenstown.
"The specialists who operated on him, the guys know what's in there and have seen it up close and can interpret," Johnson said.
The RFU did not say what treatment Sheridan's injury requires.
"I have to wait until I get back home and see the surgeon. I am quite well acquainted with him now," Sheridan said. "He will give me some good advice and see if I need an operation."
The loss of Sheridan deprives England of one of the most destructive scrummagers in world rugby. At 195cm (6-feet-5) and 125kg, Sheridan is a dominant front-row presence and was the key figure in England dismantling the Australian scrum at the last World Cup.
Sheridan drew praise from the coaching team for his performance in the final warm-up win over Ireland, which was his first international since February after a torn calf kept him out of the second half of the Six Nations. He then missed the two warm-ups against Wales while he completed his recovery from right shoulder injury and a torn bicep.
"I think everyone knows shoulders are quite complicated structures," Sheridan said. "It takes a lot of work - and a lot of work from the physios and the conditioners as well - to get players back from shoulder injuries.
"But we are where we are and you just have to get on with it."
Sheridan's influence will still be felt in the England side.
"Losing someone with the experience of Sheridan is tough," Corbisiero said. "I've learned a lot from Sheri. He has been through a lot. He has played in a lot of tough games, he's played Lions, he's big carrier, he's got a great work rate for a big guy, and his set piece is very effective as well.
"I've been trying to copy things from his game and getting some advice from him has helped me massively."
England are already missing lock Courtney Lawes for the next two matches against Georgia and Romania after he was banned for two weeks for using his knee on Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma. But at least captain and openside Lewis Moody is expected to return from a knee problem to face Georgia.
"We anticipate him being there," Johnson said. "He wasn't far off last week. He was running around last week and the week before. If you ask the medics, it's always one more week and then one more.
"But you've got to go some time."