Lock Rob Simmons looms as the likely man to step up to the Reds captaincy in the absence of James Slipper.
Originally expected to be out until May, the veteran prop with 72 Tests caps is likely to miss just a handful of Super Rugby games, reducing the need to announce a formal replacement.
While 23-year-old Liam Gill has been touted as a potential successor for Slipper, Simmons would be the obvious choice to lead the side through trials and the beginning of the Super Rugby season.
Simmons became the Reds’ sole vice-captain this season after the demotion of Karmichael Hunt and is a respected member of the side.
Queensland’s chief lineout caller will take on more responsibility on field this season regardless of a leadership position, with James Horwill departing to English side, Harlequins.
While his partnership with Kane Douglas during the World Cup gave Reds fans hopes for their 2016 lock combination, a long-term injury to Douglas swiftly ended that optimism.
Simmons is likely to team up with former Melbourne Rebels second-rower Cadeyrn Neville as a starting duo for the Reds, with emerging lock Brad Matwijow signed as injury cover for the spot.
The 26-year-old Simmons is one of the Reds’ most-capped players and until 2015 had played every game since his 2011 debut.
A nerve issue in his shoulder delayed his 2015 start, reflective of his province’s luck this year.
Slipper’s early return will be a boost for the Reds, who will be hoping to shake off a turbulent 2015 that featured a horror injury toll and disappointing performances.
The Reds will formally announce their leadership group in the lead-up to their first trial, against the Brumbies, on February 6.
Queensland opens its Super Rugby season on February 27 against the NSW Waratahs.