Blow for Wallabies



BRISBANE (AAP): Wallabies fullback Mat Rogers' Tri-Nations campaign is in tatters after being forced home from South Africa for immediate knee surgery.

Rogers this morning flew from Cape Town to Sydney where he is scheduled to undergo surgery to fix a damaged cartilage this evening.

The injury, which has worsened this week after he copped a knock during training last Friday, will cruelly sideline him for four weeks, ruling him out of Australia's first three Tri-Nations matches.

Rogers could be back training for the tournament's final clash, against the All Blacks in Auckland on September 3, but would be highly unlikely to play with little or no match practice under his belt.

The former league star had been among the Wallabies' best in the 30-12 thumping of South Africa in Sydney 11 days ago.

His performance and goalkicking ability had left coach Eddie Jones with an extremely tough dilemma for Saturday's return Mandela Challenge Test in Johannesburg as Chris Latham had recovered from hamstring troubles.

"It's very bad luck for Matty," said a disappointed Jones in Cape Town.

"He has been in very good form and there was great competition for the fullback jersey."

A shining light in Australia's 2004 end-of-season tour of Europe, Latham's hamstring problem had given Rogers Test starts against Italy and the Springboks in the past month.

The Queenslander and outside centre Stirling Mortlock are the two changes to the Wallabies starting XV for Saturday's clash at Ellis Park.

Mortlock has overcome his own hamstring injury to replace Morgan Turinui, who reverts to the bench.

Jones opted against two potential changes to his forward pack by showing faith in youngsters Mark Chisolm and Rocky Elsom.

Four-Test rookie Elsom keeps his place at blind-side flanker despite Phil Waugh returning on the bench in Sydney.

Jones will closely monitor the form of his traditionally-structured back-row on Saturday to decide on whether to play ball scavenging flankers Waugh and George Smith in tandem in the Tri-Nations opener in Pretoria on July 30.

NSW lock Dan Vickerman is the only new face on Australia's bench after returning from a shoulder injury which puts the heat on Chisholm.

The blow to Rogers has seen Elton Flatley called over as an emergency replacement to the 26-man squad.



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