Wallaby skipper James Horwill has been ruled out of next month’s tour of Europe.
The Reds second row has been out of action with a hamstring injury since May but he had hoped to return in time for the successive Tests with France, England, Italy and Wales.
Horwill hasn’t hit his favoured comeback date, though, and he will instead continue his rehab with a view to being at his best when the Lions come calling next summer.
"The reports are true, unfortunately I have had a setback in my rehab and won't be able to make the Spring tour with @QantasWallabies," Horwill confirmed on Twitter.
"I am extremely disappointed. I couldn't have done anything more to get back in time! This break will ensure I'm 100% in 2013.
"I wish the boys all the best for the tour! I know they will kill it. 2013 for me starts now!"
Horwill was appointed captain of his country prior to the 2011 World Cup, leading the Wallabies to Tri Nations glory early on in his tenure.
But he hasn’t represented the Wallabies since last December’s win over Wales after suffering his injury setback playing Super Rugby for the Reds against the Brumbies on May 26.
The Australian Rugby Union had been confident at the time that the 27-year-old’s absence would not be long-term and Horwill himself had initially targeted a spot in the side to face the French on November 10.
''I am hoping to be right for the end of year tour but I will make sure it is 100% before I play. I will do everything I can to make sure I get back asap,'' Horwill had tweeted in June.
Horwill has already missed the four summer Tests with Wales and Scotland and the entire Rugby Championship campaign, meaning he will have sat out 14 successive internationals by the time he finally returns.
There could yet be good news as far as one of Australia’s stand-in skippers is concerned, however, as David Pocock could still feature next month.
The Brumbies-bound openside had earlier suggested that he would likely stay at home to focus on his recovery from a knee problem but head coach Robbie Deans hinted otherwise after Australia’s draw with New Zealand.
While Deans didn’t say that the former Force star would definitely be on the plane next month, he did suggest that he would be available as early as the England game, even commenting that he could employ Pocock at No8 to accommodate his replacement in the seven shirt, Michael Hooper.
''There’s obviously a lineout consequence (with Pocock at No8) but he’s got the skill set in terms of passing. He’s one of our best passers to be fair – there’s some good scope there.''
Even if Pocock is fit to feature on this side of the equator, Deans won’t be re-instating him as captain having been hugely impressed with Nathan Sharpe’s contribution in that department.
"Sharpie has been fantastic as a leader," added Deans, who has been forced by injury to hand the captain’s armband to Horwill, Will Genia, Pocock and Sharpe so far this year.
"He's brought a lot of composure to the group and brought us back on task for what is important at any given moment. He's also developing the people around him."