HALIFAX boss Karl Harrison has eased the club’s injury crisis with the long-rumoured loan signing of Wakefield prop Matt James.
James, who had a successful loan spell with Fax early in 2009, put pen to paper on an initial month-long agreement yesterday and was due to train with his new teammates for the first time last night.
The Wales international, who has played top flight rugby for Bradford and Harlequins and was rated as one of the best front rowers in the Championship last season during a stint at Barrow, is expected to go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s Infirmary Cup date with Huddersfield at the Shay (3.0).
“Matt is a proven player at this level and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to bring him in,” said Harrison, who confirmed after last week’s 44-14 loss at Leigh that he was in the hunt for cover for injured trio Makali Aizue, Ross Divorty and Sam Barlow.
“He will certainly improve us in the middle of the field with those three missing.
“I’d like to thank Richard Agar and Wakefield for helping us out on this one.
“It’s for a month initially, but there is the potential for it to be extended if it’s in everyone’s best interests.”
Harrison will give teenage stand off Anthony Bowman a chance to force his way into the first team frame with a starting spot against the Giants.
Bowman featured in Fax’s first two pre-season dates, against Keighley and Salford, but missed out when Harrison cut his squad to 17 for last weekend’s game at the LSV.
But Harrison, who will not confirm his side until just before kick off because of continuing fitness concerns, said the former Siddal junior will get a chance to push his claims, possibly alongside former Leeds youngster Callum Casey.
“Bowman needs a chance,” said Harrison, who signed two experienced playmakers - Paul Handforth and Anthony Thackeray - in the autumn.
“Casey has a hamstring problem, but if he’s fit he will probably start in the halves as well.
“If he’s not, we’ll probably give Handforth and Thackeray half a game each.”
Harrison will again shuffle his backline, with chances for Ben Heaton at centre and Ryan Fieldhouse at full back.
Paul White, last season’s top try scorer, will revert to the wing.
Harrison has withdrawn another winger, Wayne Reittie, from his matchday squad, while utility forward Craig Ashall will also be rested before the Northern Rail Cup opener at Dewsbury in a fortnight’s time.
“Reittie’s in the side for Dewsbury; he’s been our best winger so far over the three games,” said Harrison.
“Heaton’s a big, raw athlete who’s a bit of a project for us because he’s never really been coached at this level.
“Fieldhouse has played most of his amateur career at full back and deserves a run there and I also want to see how White goes on the wing.”
Even with James’ arrival, the pack largely picks itself, although Harrison is considering moving Iain Morrison to the back row and pushing Joe Chandler into midfield.
“There’s a few things I need to see,” said the former Great Britain forward.
Huddersfield, who have an injury crisis of their own just a week before they meet Super League Champions Wigan in round one, have named a young side, although former Wakefield full back Aaron Murphy makes his debut. Teenager Joel Farrell, the son of former Fax coach Anthony, also plays.
Halifax (possible): Fieldhouse; White, Tyrer, Heaton, Worrincy; Bowman, Casey; Hesketh, Penkywicz, Gannon, Manning, Morrison, Chandler. Subs: James, Handforth, Thackeray, plus others tba.
Giants: Murphy; Gorman, Farnsworth, Farrell, Walker; Whitehead, Owen; Johnson, Kiss, Sarsfield, Fox, Walker, Cording. Subs: Carvell, Blagbrough, Thackeray, Cullimore, Kean, Bradbury, O’Grady, Chester.