England hooker Josh Hodgson has been ruled out of Saturday's World Cup final with a knee injury that will almost certainly force him to miss the start of the 2018 NRL season.
The 28-year-old former Hull KR captain sustained the injury in Sunday's 20-18 semi-final victory over Tonga and MRI scans have confirmed the worst fears of head coach Wayne Bennett.
An England spokesman said: “Hodgson will now return to Canberra for a specialist review with a view to operate.”
Hodgson, who has started four of England's five matches so far, went off with a knee injury after 23 minutes of the game at Auckland's Mount Smart Stadium and failed to return.
Bennett hinted at the potential seriousness of the injury in the post-match press conference when he said: “I'm not sure what's going on there. I don't think he'll be right to play next week. You don't normally limp off like that and play next week.”
England say scans on Sunday revealed Hodgson has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury which normally means a knee reconstruction which could sideline him for up to nine months.
Hodgson has been a major success in the NRL since moving to Canberra three years ago and only this week spoke of his happiness over signing a new five-year contract.
It is a blow to England as they prepare to face holders Australia in Saturday's final at Suncorp Stadium but at least they have another in-form hooker to call on.
James Roby, who was on the bench on Sunday, went on to win his 30th cap as a replacement for Hodgson and is ready to step into a starting role.
“It's obviously bad news for Josh and I feel for him,” Roby said. “If that means me starting, I'm going to have to get ready to get going from the off.”
With no other specialist hooker in his 24-man squad, Bennett may call on the versatile Stefan Ratchford or half-back George Williams to provide back-up against the Kangaroos, although Roby insists he could play 80 minutes if required.
“I'm used to playing 80 minutes but these World Cup games are that intense,” he said. “If I have to do 80, I'll put my hand up and do my best.”
England have yet to provide an update on captain Sean O'Loughlin, who is also in some doubt after picking up a quad strain against Tonga.
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