The Queensland Reds must face an all-Wallaby NSW forward pack without Test skipper James Horwill whose long-awaited return to Super Rugby has again been delayed.
Horwill was Monday ruled out of Saturday night's interstate grudge match at Suncorp Stadium as the Reds take a cautious approach to his ankle injury.
The Wallabies lock has not played for nine months after tearing his hamstring in a horrific injury against the Brumbies last May.
Horwill was due to make his return from hamstring surgery in Queensland's final pre-season trial but rolled his ankle badly in training three days before the game against the Chiefs.
He was again expected to return against the Waratahs but Reds coaching boss Ewen McKenzie said he would run the water against NSW while Rob Simmons, Adam Wallace-Harrison and Ed O'Donaghue shared time in the second-row.
While Brumbies coach Jake White last week believed Horwill's non-selection for the Reds' 24-6 loss was a ruse, McKenzie reiterated his skipper would "definitely" miss the round two clash.
"He's not quite ready yet so rather than mess around there we'll just continue on," he said said.
"The plan at the moment is he'll prob run the water for us this week so his return is not far away.
"It's the start of a long season and we don't feel it's the right time to run guys who are semi-fit."
McKenzie did declare tough-tackling centre Anthony Faingaa available to make his return from a hand injury and indicated he could take the captaincy from James Slipper.