The NSW Waratahs expect skipper Dave Dennis to still have an important role in their quest for a maiden Super Rugby title despite his shattering season-ending injury.
It was confirmed on Monday that Dennis would be out for the remainder of the year after sustaining anterior cruciate knee ligament damage in the 39-6 home win over the Brumbies on Saturday.
He will this week undergo a third knee reconstruction.
“It’s pretty shattering and devastating, but I suppose life goes on,” Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley said on Monday.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge without him, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Utility back Jono Lance said there was a solemn mood post-game in the Waratahs dressing room following Dennis’s injury.
However, he revealed Dennis had messaged his teammates urging them not to fret over his bad fortune.
“It (said) `just that the job’s not over and don’t worry about me, that’s footy’,” Lance said.
Dennis will still be heavily involved with the Waratahs, who have already secured top spot in the Australian conference with two rounds remaining.
“He organises our lineouts, so that will be one thing he’ll have to do with Stephen Hoiles and Mitch Chapman,” prop Paddy Ryan said.
“He’s obviously such a big part of our community and was before he was captain, so he’ll have a huge role to play.”
Ryan said the players looked up to new skipper and incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, but felt Dennis would be hard to replace as a leader and player.
“He does a lot of the things that need to be done to keep the team ticking over,” Ryan said.
“If there’s one week when we’re playing more ball carriers, he’ll do more cleanouts or more tackles. He’s a very selfless player, so he will be hard to replace.”
Wallabies front rower Ryan was happy with the pack’s performance against the Brumbies, but warned they could not afford to drop their standards against the Highlanders in Sydney next Sunday.
“I think it was certainly the most satisfying pack performance, in my opinion, for the year,” Ryan said.
“I think the Brumbies have been the pinnacle of forward packs in Australia for the last couple of years.
“It was probably 50-50 in the scrums and we certainly got one over them in the lineouts.
Ryan said the performance was really satisfying.
“But again as soon as you start taking that kind of stuff for granted, you get done,” he said.
“We had a good performance against the Stormers earlier in the year and then went over to Perth and got dusted, so we can’t be taking anything for granted.”