Australia will have to do without Digby Ioane for Saturday’s crucial World Cup encounter with Ireland.
The Queensland Reds wing has fractured his thumb and is expected to be out of action until the start of the knockout stages.
Ioane suffered the setback during the Wallabies’ opening round win over Italy, a match in which he scored the last of his side’s four tries.
The 26-year-old caught his hand on the right boot of Italian wing Mirco Bergamasco shortly after opening his World Cup try-scoring account.
"Ioane will be operated on and will remain with the Wallabies in New Zealand," said a Australian Rugby Union statement.
"He is expected to be available to play again later in the tournament, although the exact timelines on when he might be able to return will not be known until after the joint has been operated on, and his rehabilitation from the injury has begun."
Australia can replace Ioane in their 30-man squad if they wish but any replacement has to be permanent and would rule him out of a return to the team later on in the competition. The news is a major blow for the Lions’ 2013 opponents as Ioane had become a key figure in Robbie Deans’ inform side.
An injury-strewn career had finally taken off with a scintillating season in the Super 15 and a starting spot for the Wallabies had become a regular occurrence this term. Ioane began all four matches in the recent Tri Nations triumph, scoring tries against both the All Blacks and the Springboks.
Ioane’s misfortune is likely to reopen the door to Melbourne Rebels-bound James O’Connor who was left out of the Tri Nations decider with New Zealand after failing to turn up to a squad function following a night out.
O’Connor was among the replacements for the win over the Italians at the weekend and could now earn a full recall for the clash with Ireland.