Whitehaven coach Gary Charlton is expecting a tough contest when he takes his side to Wrexham on Sunday.

North Wales Crusaders won at the Recreation Ground last season, a defeat which eventually cost Haven a place in the play-offs.

They have strengthened since then and last week-end were narrowly beaten 19-18 at London Skolars, another improved side who are second to Haven in the table on points differential.

They are also likely to be giving a debut on Sunday to Australian Jacob Thomas who has joined on loan from Championship side Dewsbury Rams.

The 25-year-old only arrived in England last December after taking up a job post in Leeds after completing his teaching degree back home.

Thomas has played at various levels throughout his career, including a spell at Queensland-based club Normanby Hounds.

He’s not been able to nail down a place in the Dewsbury side and has already spent time on loan at Coventry Bears.

North Wales coach Andrew Murray said; “Jacob has been training with the club for a few weeks now and going really well.

“He was in the 19 for London without being used and he knows that he has to be patient and bide his time for his opportunity to come.

“He gives us a bit of versatility as he can play full-back, scrum-half or hooker. Our regular full-back Tommy Johnson is still out and Ryan Smith has also been missing games through injury.

“I don’t like to think about more injuries because we don’t have that much cover.

“Lee Greenwood, the Dewsbury coach spoke well of Jacob and he gives us an extra option.

“I worked with Lee at Gloucestershire All Golds when he was coach there and he’s really done us a favour through loaning Jacob.”

The game in Wrexham (kick-off 2.30pm) will be Whitehaven’s first since they drew at home on May 5 with Newcastle Thunder.

That point was enough to take Whitehaven top of the table.