England will not win the Rugby World Cup without Richard Hill, according to All Black great Zinzan Brooke.
The versatile back rower injured his hamstring in England's comfortable win over Georgia in their opening match in Perth.
At the time it was thought that the injury was not serious, but on Tuesday England coach Clive Woodward hinted that it remains a cause for concern, saying: "This niggling hamstring doesn't seem to go away."
Woodward has also admitted that Hill may not return before before the semi-finals, should England get that far.
"England need Richard Hill," said BBC Sport columnist Brooke, who as one of the best back-row forwards of all time understands Hill's abilities better than most.
"I'd go so far as to say that if Richard Hill is not there England will not win the World Cup.
"He is just as important as Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson.
"In fact I would say in order of importance it goes Wilkinson, Hill, Johnson.
"I rate Richard Hill that highly. I think he is an outstanding player."
Hill's injury has given Wasps flanker Joe Worsley the chance to stake his claim for a starting berth.
However, Worsley blotted his copybook on Sunday when he was yellow carded during England's massive victory against Uruguay.
Worsley was sin-binned for a high tackle on Uruguay winger Joaquin Pastore and as he walked off he applauded the England fans.
After the match he was severely reprimanded by England boss Woodward and Worsley subsequently apologised for his actions, but Brooke could not believe the incident had occurred.
"The guy was still down injured and he was applauding the crowd," said Brooke. "I thought it was ridiculous."
An Australian TV channel has suggested Worsley's actions are another example of the arrogance that England have been accused of down under.
"It was stupid because you can't afford to give any ammunition to the opposition," said Brooke.