Holden will get chance to stake a claim at hooker

Keith Holden
Keith Holden
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Halifax coach Karl Harrison is poised to give rookie hooker Keith Holden a chance in Sunday’s Challenge Cup third round tie against Oxford at the Shay (3.0).

The former England youth international, who played Academy rugby for Warrington and Widnes before signing with Fax for 2013, will make his competitive debut for the club against the Championship One new boys.

“Keith’s been ripping it up in the under 20s, but I need to see him play at a better level now, against men rather than kids,” said Harrison.

“He’s trained well and he’ll get a chance to show what he can do.

“Paul Handforth’s been playing exceptionally well at hooker, but we do need cover there.

“We’ve people who can play there - Keith, the Ashall boys, Callum Casey, even Scott Murrell - but we could do with someone really staking a claim.”

Fax are also likely to welcome back prop Luke Ambler, who has been out for three weeks with a heel injury, although Harrison was not expected to finalise his side until after training on Friday.

“The boys have had a few days off after Easter, so it’s going to be a late selection,” said Harrison, who confirmed his side’s status as hot favourites would probably allow to him to rest some senior players.

“For us it’s about giving Oxford respect, and picking a side that is going to win the game, while perhaps giving one or two people a break as well.

“It’s not something we can afford to get wrong though, it’s a massive competition and the buck stops with the coach.

“I’ve spoken to a few of the players through the week; some have asked not to play and some have told me they want to play to keep their form going.

“Ambler will be back, which is good because he needs to get some rugby in before we play Leigh and Featherstone.

“The good thing is that we’ve only had one player at physio this week and that was Murrell with his shoulder.”

Harrison has already had sight of Oxford, who edged past Fax’s under 20s in a warm up fixture last month.

“They’ve got some good players, lads like John Clough who I had at Salford, and although they’ve been playing it down it’s a great chance for them to test themselves and show what they can do,” he said.

“We certainly cannot afford to take them lightly.”

Fax officials have announced a two-for-one ticket deal for Sunday’s game for all areas of the ground, effectively slashing adult admission to £9 for the East Stand and £7.50 for the South Stand.