SHEFFIELD Eagles record try scorer Quentin Laulu-Togagae is set to be a surprise inclusion in the starting line for the opening game of the season at Halifax tonight.
The Samoan international fullback – nicknamed Q or QLT - had knee surgery last month but rehab has gone well.
Having Laulu-Togagae, who scored 34 tries last season, available would be a major boost as the Eagles start the defence of their Championship title.
Loose-forward Joe Hirst is out after breaking a bone in his hand during training in France. It’s a new blow for Hirst who missed the Grand Final through injury.
Try-scoring winger Scott Turner is a doubt with a calf strain and Nev Morrison is on standby.
Former St Helens centre Tom Armstrong and young back rower Colton Roche, signed from Leeds, will make their debuts.
The Eagles go into the game at the Shay (kick-off 7.30pm) without playing a pre-season warm-up game. They face a Halifax team seeking revenge for their defeat in the play-offs last year.
Coach Mark Aston said: “Halifax are one of the top teams and this was never going to be an easy start,” he added. “But it’s a long season and it’s how you finish that matters. The new lads will be in and we need to have a look at them.”
The focus for the Eagles will fall on Patch Walker who has replaced Simon Brown at stand-off. Walker renews the half-back partnership he had with Dominic Brambani at Dewsbury which should smooth the transition.
Halifax have to cope without hooker Sean Penkywicz – their outstanding player in recent seasons – who has moved to Leigh. Their danger man will be half-back or loose-forward Scott Murrell signed from Hull KR.