Rovers trip a friendly unlike any other: Karl

Paul Mennell should be back at hooker
Paul Mennell should be back at hooker

Halifax coach Karl Harrison is predicting the most explosive pre-season encounter of his two and a half year reign at Featherstone on Sunday (3.0).

Fax face their arch rivals, the third of four warm up outings before next month’s Championship kick off, on the back of a 30-30 draw at Castleford and last weekend’s 10-4 success at Batley.

Rovers, under the tutelage of new coach John Bastian, have beaten Hunslet 26-0 and, more significantly, Wakefield, winning 24-8.

“It is is not going to be a normal friendly, I think the players will see to that because both teams will want to win,” said Harrison, who played alongside Bastian, the former head of youth at Leeds and Warrington who is coaching at senior level for the first time, for Rovers in the late 1980s.

“It’s going to be a big indicator of progress for both sides, whether that turns out to be good or bad.

“I’ve spoken to John this week and he was very happy with how they played against a very strong Wakefield team.

“He’s had to make some tough decisions this winter, but he’s a strong character and if people buy into what he’s trying to do Featherstone will be very competitive.

“He’s a good coach, a shrewd coach, and the coaching is the same whether you are at youth level or Championship level.

“The difference is in the man management, because you talk to a man in a different way you would talk to a kid.

“I’m certainly expecting a different kind of Featherstone side, very much in the Warrington mould.”

Harrison has still to finalise his line up, but is expected to start with what he currently feels is his strongest side before making full use of an eight-man replacements bench.

The former Test prop remains hopeful that both half back Ben Johnston (foot) and winger Rob Worrincy (hamstring) will be fit enough to be considered for selection, while forward Adam Robinson and hooker Keith Holden could both make their seasonal debuts.

Robinson has been nursed through pre season with a pelvic injury, while Holden was hospitalised before Christmas with pneumonia.

“Keith’s been really ill, but he’s getting there,” said Harrison, who confirmed he would give a debut to former Salford utility back Jack Holmes.

“We’ll see how he goes this week, it might still be a week too early for him.”