Halifax coach Richard Marshall has warned his forwards they will face one of the toughest tests of their Championship season when Dewsbury visit the Shay on Sunday (3.0).
The Rams, now under the tutelage of ex-Siddal coach Lee Greenwood, have assembled a pack Marshall rates as the biggest in the Championship.
Dewsbury, who have ex-Fax speedster Rob Worrincy on the wing and added wily former Shay half back Liam Finn to their squad this week, underlined that point by dominating for long spells against Toronto at the weekend before eventually losing out 22-17 to the competition favourites.
“Across the park, they’re probably the biggest team we will face this season and the pack in particular is huge,” said Marshall, who admitted his own front rowers were yet to find their form consistently in 2019, with only an inspirational second spell from Simon Grix finally getting them over the top of Swinton last weekend.
“I’ve spoken to our forwards this week; this is the toughest challenge they’ll have faced over the last six weeks and one of the biggest they’ll get all year.
“Our expectations of our forward pack are pretty high and they’ve not really fired on all cylinders consistently yet.
“They were good against Leigh and in patches in other games, but it’s probably been around 50 per cent of the time, which isn’t enough.
“They will need to be good on Sunday, that’s for sure.
“We’ll take a lot from the final minutes or so of that Swinton game in terms of game management and attitude.
“The conditions are going to be similar; it’s been wet all week and they’ve played football on the pitch twice this week, so it’s going to be a wreck.”
Marshall hinted he was likely to field a similar 17 to the one that came from behind to beat the Lions 18-16, although his ability to make changes up front was limited after young Welshman Sion Jones injured his knee in training.
Young backs James Woodburn-Hall and Reece Chapman-Smith are also knocking on the door after impressive performances in last Friday’s 70-point reserve romp at Keighley, although half back Ben White looks likely to miss out again after Ben Johnston’s return from injury.
“Sion’s probably out for six weeks, which is frustrating because he was really close to playing,” said Marshall.
“Woody and Reece are both ready to go, but whether that’s this week or not, we’ll see.
“Ben White wants to be playing but I thought Johnno was okay for his first game back; we lose some organisation and kicking game, but gain in some other areas.”
Full back Quentin Laulu-Togagae, the club’s key close-season signing, will keep his place, but looked under pressure at times against Swinton and ended the game defending on the wing, with Will Sharp acting as the last line of defence when the Lions were in possession.
“Q needed to be more urgent defending those kicks, but they were absolutely pinpoint,” said Marshall.
“He’s still a key player for us in attack and we know we’ll see the best of him when the grounds dry up.
“We might alternate him and Will again through the game, we’ll see.”
Halifax have offered to support their former player Adam Tangata through his injury rehabilitation after he was made redundant by Championship rivals Widnes.
The Cook Islands forward, who is currently sidelined after tearing a pectoral muscle, quit Fax in the autumn to take up a full time deal with the Vikings, but was left without a club after the Cheshire went into administration.
“I’ve spoken to Adam,” confirmed Marshall.
“He’s not our player, he’s not anyone’s player, but he was here for four years and still lives in Halifax so fundamentally he’s one of our mates and we want to help him out if we can.
“He’s had surgery, but he’s probably got four months of rehab in front of him.
“There are no hidden agendas, no contract offers, but we don’t want to see him struggling.”