South Sydney’s England prop George Burgess has been ruled out of the three-match Test series with New Zealand due to injury.
The 23-year-old is to undergo hip surgery which will sideline him until the start of the 2016 season.
“George needs surgery on his hip,” England coach Steve McNamara told Press Association Sport. “It’s going to be a fairly long recovery period for him, about four months.”
Burgess, who played in all five matches of the 2013 World Cup and started all three games in the 2014 Four Nations Series, would have been one of the first names in McNamara’s 23-man squad.
“George is devastated,” added McNamara, speaking from Brisbane where he is helping Sydney Roosters prepare for Saturday’s NRL semi-final against the Broncos.
“He’s extremely proud about playing for England and it’s been a tough decision for him, but it’s one that he’s had to make because of the nature of the injury.
“He has to have it done for the rest of his career basically, otherwise he starts putting himself at risk of further injury.”
The news is a body blow for England as they look to topple the world’s new No.1 team.
Burgess wouldn’t have been available for England’s game against France on October 24 because of a suspension carried over from the NRL season but he would have been a certain starter against the Kiwis in Hull a week later.
“Obviously it’s a blow,” McNamara said. “George is big part of our group but it gives an opportunity for somebody else.
“You never really get to a tournament at the end of the season with every player available, it’s just not going to happen for any national team.
“You are always bracing yourself for something to come along like this. It’s not a devastating injury news for England in my opinion.
“It’s sad news for George and for the team but we move on and we’ll be fine.”
The consolation for England is that the front row has become a position of strength in recent years.
McNamara can still call on George’s twin brother Tom, Canterbury captain James Graham, and St George Illawarra’s Mike Cooper, while Leeds’ former Manly and Newcastle forward Adam Cuthbertson is eligible through his English father and will provide competition from established Super League rivals Alex Walmsley and Chris Hill.
“George has proved himself to be a world-class player over the last couple of years now so when you lose a world-class player it’s disappointing but we have got some depth in that spot,” McNamara said.
“We would have had some decisions to make in that area in terms of selection.”
Meanwhile, McNamara has allayed fears over the fitness of Gareth Widdop, who injured a calf playing for the Dragons towards the end of the season.
“Gareth is fine, I spoke to him again today,” he said.
McNamara will be keeping a close eye on Brisbane centre Jack Reed, who will go up against the Roosters in Saturday’s semi-final.