Halifax coach Richard Marshall will aim to inject some ‘pace and freshness’ into his side ahead of Saturday night’s Super 8s Qualifiers clash in Toulouse (8.0 CET).
Fax lost their opening game of the Qualifiers last weekend, going down 14-0 to promotion-hunting Toronto Wolfpack at the Shay.
Marshall said his side matched their full time rivals physically, but believes their attacking edge has been dulled by the high-stakes final weeks of the Championship season.
Fax will recall influential loose forward Simon Grix, who missed last weekend’s game with an ongoing knee issue, and prop Dan Fleming, ineligible to play against Toronto under the terms of his transfer agreement.
But Marshall said he was also mulling over more extensive changes for a game that, theoretically, is one of the most winnable of Fax’s remaining six.
“I thought we looked like the season was catching up with us a little bit at the weekend,” said Marshall.
“We had a five or six week spell coming into the end of the Championship season when we were really clinical in attack, but we weren’t against Toronto.
“There wasn’t a lot in the game, probably less than the scoreline indicates, but in this phase of the season every aspect of our play needs to be better.
“What got us to this point won’t necessarily get us the results we want now we’re here.
“We had a comprehensive review on Tuesday night and looked at what we need to do and how we need to do it, some of the real intricacies of the game.
“My experience of these 8s is that you need to do more work on the opposition; you have less margin for error and while the weaknesses are there, they are harder to spot and harder to exploit.
“There will be some changes to the team, but we’ll decide on the extent of those closer to the game.
“I do want to try and put some pace and freshness back into our game this week, we do need to ask more questions in attack.
“Toulouse play their own field very well; it’s a big pitch and they’re good at exposing teams just by shifting the ball.
“We know their threats - their offloads, Kheirallah at full back, Ford’s kicking game - and they know ours.
“They were very good at Leeds last week. At 20-16 with 60 minutes on the clock they were in the game, so that tells us they’re playing well.
“We’ve beaten them this season and they’ve beaten us, I don’t think there will be much in it this week, it’s a 50/50 call.”
While Grix and Fleming are seemingly certain to be recalled, Fax will be without the supremely versatile Ed Barber, who has played in every position bar wing and full back this season.
The former Elland amateur has medial knee ligament damage and is unlikely to play again in 2018.
Marshall has utility back James Woodburn-Hall, on-loan St Helens back rower Liam Cooper and fit-again Castleford loanee Brandon Douglas all available, while the club’s reserves, who fought out a 24-24 draw with a highly-rated Wigan side last weekend.
“I’m disappointed for Ed, because he’s been really good for us this year,” said Marshall.
“Simon should play this week and Dan’s available.
“Brandon played really well against Wigan, so he’s in the mix and it might be time to take a look at Liam as well.
“We’ve got options though, which is something we didn’t have at this stage last season.”