Fax to debut half back Morgan in Boxing Day friendly

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Halifax will give a pre-season chance to young half back talent Morgan Punchard in the Boxing Day date with Featherstone (noon).

The Castleford teenager, who only turned professional in the summer, is likely to come off the bench against Rovers in a game that will give some indication of his readiness for the rigours of Championship rugby league.

Punchard is highly rated, with the 18 year old rejecting several other clubs to join Fax, apparently on the basis of securing a first team place sooner rather than later.

“I like Morgan a lot as a player,” said Shay boss Richard Marshall.

“He’s a cocky, cheeky half back and we’ll take a look at him in this game.

“He’s not afraid to take the ball right into the teeth of the defence and he’s pretty fast when he chooses to run the ball.

“He’s not the finished article by any means, he’s got some work to do physically and he’s made mistakes in training and been found out, but that’s how you learn.

“Scott Murrell has taken him under his wing and done a lot of work with him, so we’ll see how he gets on.

“I don’t think he’s ready for the Championship right now, but by the end of the year I would expect him to be putting the pressure on Scott, Gareth Moore and Ben Johnston.”

Punchard will take his place in a squad that mixes young talent and senior professionals, with three rookies - full back Jack Mead, winger Connor McGrath and forward Martyn Reilly - all named in Marshall’s initial selection.

There will be a debut in the back row for new recruit Shane Grady, but returning winger Rob Worrincy will miss out as he continues his recovery from a calf problem.

Forwards Adam Tangata, Simon Grix, Mitch Cahalane and Luke Ambler are all tipped to be rested, while Will Sharp (suspended) and Ben Johnston (hip) will also be sidelined.

Marshall could also field players from Super League side Salford, with Fax’s dual-registration partners putting forward “four or five names”, presumably talent Fax might have longer-term access to in 2017.

In Johnston’s absence, utility back Connor Robinson will get the first chance to claim the club’s problematic full back shirt.

“Connor’s trained there pretty well and he’s keen to play there,” said Marshall.

“His distribution is first class.”

Halifax (probable): Robinson; Saltonstall, Butler, Heaton, Tyrer; G. Moore, Murrell; Boyle, Kaye, Nelmes, Grady, Barber, Fairbank. Subs: Reilly, Mead, McGrath, plus TBC.