Sydney - Wallabies No 8 Wycliff Palu will need reconstruction surgery on a knee injury and will be out for the remainder of the season, the NSW Waratahs said on Monday.
Palu ruptured his right anterior cruciate ligament in the 61st minute of the Waratahs' 20-13 Super 14 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch last Saturday.
The loss of Palu, who only last week committed to a new two-season deal with the Waratahs and the Australian Rugby Union, is a blow to the Waratahs' Super 14 title chances, coach Chris Hickey said.
"Cliffy's been voted the players' player for the last two years and the go-forward he gives us is second to none," Hickey said.
"You simply can't bring someone else in and ask them to do the job of Cliff and it's up to a number of other players to lift, which we know they can do and will have to do."
The Waratahs, who have a bye next weekend, also have injury concerns with prop Benn Robinson and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, both Australian internationals.
Robinson left the field in the second half against the Crusaders after sustaining a blow to his right forearm.
Scans have revealed a small fracture and his recovery will be monitored ahead of the next game with the Brumbies at Sydney's Olympic stadium on April 24, while Polota-Nau injured his right shoulder, officials said.
"It's going to be a bit of a waiting game with both Robbo and Tatafu," Hickey said.
"They both have fairly significant injuries and if we didn't have the bye this week they definitely wouldn't be available."