England will head into the final leg of their Test tour of South Africa with influential captain Chris Robshaw confined to a watching brief.
Robshaw will play no part in the final Test against the Springboks in Port Elizabeth on Saturday after it was revealed he broke his right thumb in last weekend's defeat in Johannesburg.
It is a blow for the team and the 26-year-old flanker, whose inspirational performances have been a key factor in England's revival since the dismal World Cup campaign last year. Robshaw said: "I'm absolutely gutted. I've been very proud and honoured to lead this group during the Six Nations and on this tour and it's a difficult way to end the season."
He took a bang to the hand in the first Test in Durban and thought it was bruised, but had it assessed after another painful blow in the second match. He wanted to play on even after his fears of a break were confirmed but head coach Stuart Lancaster said it was not worth the risk.
Lancaster said: "No player, when they are captain of their country, wants to be told they can't play in the final Test. But we have got to respect the specialist advice. If he gets another kick on it, it will displace and then it will require an operation."
Lancaster has moved quickly to name hooker Dylan Hartley as replacement skipper for the final Test.
Hartley, 26, has not produced his best form on the tour and recently served an eight-week ban for biting but Lancaster expects the Northampton front rower to rise to the challenge.
Lancaster said: "In the changing room before the game you hear lots of voices. You have the captain's voice but I can guarantee you Dylan's voice is close behind, encouraging, shouting, motivating. I think it will add five percent on Dylan Hartley this weekend, definitely."
An England XV play a tour match against the Northern Barbarians in Potchefstroom on Tuesday before the whole squad travel to Port Elizabeth to begin preparations for the final Test. The tourists are hoping to secure a consolation victory after defeats in the opening two matches of the Test series.
Lancaster may have dropped some hints as to his line-up for Saturday in his selection for the midweek match. Flanker James Haskell, a potential replacement for Robshaw, has been named on bench, perhaps to keep him relatively fresh. Scrum-half Lee Dickson was also due to start while his rival Danny Care was absent from the teamsheet.