Halifax will field what coach Richard Marshall described as his “best available side” when they host Super League neighbours Huddersfield Giants in Sunday’s Infirmary Cup warm up fixture (3.0).
Fax have three pre-season fixtures, with a second game at Widnes next Sunday and a Wednesday night date at Keighley the following week ahead of the start of the Championship season on February 7.
And while the 2015 Championship Coach of the Year will be deprived of as many as 10 front line players - including new recruits Simon Grix, Gavin Bennion and Gareth Moore through injury - he will not hold back against a Giants side that is likely to be a mix of young talent and first team squad members, with Calderdale juniors Jake Connor and Kruise Leeming both expected to play.
“We’ll play the best side we have available, because we want to try and build on that vibe and that confidence that we built in those final home games of last season,” said Marshall.
“The players have worked hard and are chomping at the bit to play now - Scott Murrell has been mithering all week telling me how keen he is - and we’re excited to find out where we are.
“I think Huddersfield are bringing a young team, but to be honest that really makes no difference to me as far as our objectives in this game go.
“We’ve got quite a short pre-season programme and all three games are about giving players opportunities to put themselves forward for that first league game.
“They might only get one or two chances though, so they need to try and take them; there’s a fair bit of pressure on everyone in the squad to perform well.”
Marshall has named a 19-man selection and will give debuts to winger Will Sharp and centre Sam Smeaton, who will be paired on the left flank, while young centre Chester Butler, with the ink barely dry on his first professional contract, is included on the bench.
With Moore injured, Marshall has turned to former Hull KR playmaker Connor Robinson to start at the scrum base alongside Murrell, with Ben Johnston preferred at full back.
“We have players missing, but that presents opportunities to other people,” said Marshall.
“Connor played a fair bit of half back for us last year and he gives us good options.
“We can bring Ben up from full back as well so we will be looking at different combinations over the next few games.
“Sam Smeaton gets first shot at centre because Steve Tyrer is still working his way back from injury and that combination with Will Sharp could be very good for us.
“Sam’s impressed me in most aspects since he came here; he’s trained very well and it will be good to see him on the field.”
Halifax (probable): Johnston; Sharp, Smeaton, Heaton, Saltonstall; Murrell, Robinson; Cahalane, Kaye, Ambler, Manning, Barber, Fairbank. Subs: R. Moore, Maneely, Tangata, Eccleston, Bracek, Butler