Queensland Reds captain James Slipper will return home from the team’s tour of South Africa and Argentina immediately, after suffering a ruptured Achilles in his side’s loss to the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
He will be replaced on the tour by prop Phil Kite, who trained with the squad throughout the pre-season.
Reds head coach Nick Stiles said: “It’s obviously really disappointing for James to suffer such a serious injury this early in the season. We’ll miss his contributions on the field, but knowing the sort of bloke he is, he’ll still be heavily involved from the sidelines.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve got Stephen Moore in the side, who is the current Wallabies skipper. He will take over the captaincy in Slipper’s absence.”
The injury almost certainly rules Slipper out of all Super Rugby in 2017 and the vast majority of this year's Wallabies schedule of Tests.
Meanwhile Stiles won't "sugarcoat" the 44-14 loss to the Lions but he will demand a better performance from his team.
That's the message from the Queensland Reds coach after they slumped to a 1-3 record to start the 2017 Super Rugby season.
"Neither of us will sugarcoat that loss at all but when you’re playing the Lions with 14 men in the second half, the guys that came on, the young kids, put their hand up and had a crack," he said.
"That’s good for us long term, definitely, but we need to get better in the short term as well."
The reality of the Reds letting a pair of wins slide against the Force and Crusaders is now being fully realised, as they face another tough road test against the Jaguares in Argentina next week before returning home to host the Hurricanes.
"This competition is that tough that when you’ve got an opportunity to win a game you have to win it," Stiles said.
"(Against the) Crusaders, we were terribly unlucky not to win that.
"It changes your season this early to have those couple wins in the bank."
An acid test fortnight awaits the reeling Reds, who will almost certainly be without Quade Cooper due to suspension and captain James Slipper if a snapped achilles is confirmed by scans tomorrow.
When asked about Cooper's red card for a high shot on Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Stiles did not have any major qualms.
"Everyone is having trouble with it but the reality is Quade went high." - Nick Stiles
"He hit the shoulder, bounced up, had intent and the way they are refereeing it, it’s a red card.
"Referees, it’s difficult for them, it’s tough but that’s how it is."
Lachlan Maranta, the former Brisbane Bronco, flew out to join the Reds on Sunday night as cover for Cooper who team officials are expecting to cop at least some sort of suspension for his high shot on van Rensburg,.