Halifax coach Richard Marshall has suggested he will field a significantly changed team for Sunday’s fourth Super 8s Qualifiers game at Super League outfit Hull KR (3.0).
After exceeding all expectations to finish the Championship season in fourth place, Fax have found the going tough since the competition split, losing back-to-back games against Toronto, Toulouse and Salford and scoring just two tries in 240 minutes of rugby.
Last weekend’s 62-4 thrashing by an in-form Red Devils side represented a low point, leaving Marshall mulling over how to best manage his resources with four games - three of which are against top flight clubs - remaining.
At least three changes will be enforced, with KR’s on-loan Australian full back Kieren Moss unable to play under the terms of his move and forwards Simon Grix and Jordan Baldwinson ruled out through injury.
Grix has concussion and facial injuries, while Baldwinson - on loan from Wakefield - will not play again this year after damaging medial ligaments, the same issue that has already ruled out centre Steve Tyrer and utility player Ed Barber.
“It will be a different looking team this weekend, for a few reasons,” said Marshall, who will have one eye on the televised game at struggling Widnes the following Saturday, a fixture that, in theory at least, represents a more realistic target.
“Simon’s just battered; he’s concussed, his face is cut up and he’s got a really sore jaw and teeth.
“Jordan’s is probably a 10 week injury, which is really unfortunate, for him and us.
“He was a late signing for us on deadline day and he’s come in and probably exceeded our expectations over the last few weeks.
“I think he’s enjoyed himself and we’ll probably be opening a dialogue with Wakefield over his availability next year.
“We’ve got a few options at full back to cover for Moss; James Woodburn-Hall, James Saltonstall and Will Sharp will all get a run there in training before we make that decision.
“We’ll probably also see some younger players get a chance, maybe lads like Frazer Morris, Sion Jones and Connor Davies, who’ve all been going well in the reserves.
“This week is about opportunity for those people; after last week, they can’t really do any worse, can they?
“The players who back up from last week need to improve and anyone who comes in knows they have a chance to play themselves into the team for the Widnes game.”
A victory at Craven Park, which so nearly came Fax’s way in the opening game of last season’s Qualifiers, seems at long odds 12 months later with Tim Sheens’ side playing some incisive attacking rugby.
“They’re a good side anyway and they’re a very good side at home when they get the crowd behind them,” said Marshall.
“They’ve still a lot of players who played against us last year, so we know about them and they know about us.
“The reality is that they are probably capable of doing what Salford did to us, so the priority is for us to compete hard for 80 minutes.
“There were aspects of Sunday’s game that we definitely weren’t okay with and, defensively, we don’t want some of the tries we conceded to become the norm, because they weren’t acceptable by the standards we have set this year.”