Marshall selecting from strength as Fax host Bulldogs

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Halifax coach Richard Marshall is facing a series of selection headaches ahead of Sunday’s delayed kick off Championship date with Batley at the Shay (4.0).

Fax go into the game, which has been knocked back an hour to avoid a clash with England’s World Cup match, in fourth place on the league ladder after last week’s 46-4 win at Swinton, one of five teams covered by just two points as the race for a top four finish hots up.

Marshall expects to be without back rower Shane Grady, who is nursing ongoing knee and ankle issues, but has a clutch of other players pushing for places.

Winger James Saltonstall, who missed the game against the Lions to be at the birth of his son, will be available, while utility back James Woodburn-Hall is expected to be fit after a two week absence with a hip injury sustained in training.

With rookie prop Sion Jones, 18th man at Heywood Road, and on-loan Wigan back rower Macauley Davies in contention, plus the likelihood of dual-registration reinforcements from Castleford - although regular visitor James Green is rumoured to be close to moving away from the Tigers on loan - Marshall has some choices to make.

“We’ll have some headaches, some difficult decisions, which is a good position to be in with seven games to go before the competition splits,” said Marshall, whose side beat the Bulldogs 32-18 at Mount Pleasant at the beginning of June.

“We’ll probably go without Shane this week; it’s been getting harder and harder to turn him round between games and he probably needs a rest.

“We’ve got a few players making claims for selection, so we can cover that.

“I wouldn’t have an issue putting Macauley in there.

“We took him to Swinton to get him involved with the team and he trained with the first team on Tuesday night.

“He’s a good athlete, he moves well on the field, so we’ll see how he goes through the week.

“But we’ve Saltonstall available again and Woody will probably be fit.

“It’s good for us to have that competition coming into these next few games.

“I think Batley will have targeted this game as one they can win.

“They’re always very competitive matches between us and while I think we’re playing better than we were when we last met, they probably are too.

“I certainly expect them to have a stronger team out this weekend.”

Sunday will be Fax’s first fixture at the Shay since they drew 22-22 with Dewsbury on May 22 and only their second since they beat Swinton on April 15.

“I think we’re all looking forward to getting back home,” said Marshall.

“The pitch is looking pretty good, which suits the way we are playing at the moment.

“We say it every week, but we just need to keep winning.”

Marshall also spoke out on the machinations at the top of the sport, with reports suggesting the current competition structure, based around the Super 8s, is likely to be binned after just four seasons for 2019 and replaced with some form of one up, one down promotion between the Championship and the top flight.

“I’m pretty frustrated with the game at the moment,” said Marshall.

“I know change is coming, but will that change benefit clubs like Halifax?

“Probably not, and it’s not something we have any influence over.

“Looking at the bigger picture, I think it’s a warning sign for the sport as a whole when you’ve got professional clubs unable to field 17 players and Super League clubs signing players from the Championship because their own pathways aren’t producing enough talent.

“All we can do for the moment is to focus on the things we can control, on and off the field.”