Duffy gets flavour of squad scene


Rugby: The Ireland squad gathered for their third pre-Christmas training session at the ALSAA complex yesterday. Under the watchful eye of coach Warren Gatland, and his assistant Eddie O'Sullivan, 41 players togged out with a further two, Shane Horgan (back) and Rob Henderson (shoulder), risking frostbite on the sidelines, writes John O'Sullivan.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the two-session day was the presence of former Ireland Schools' captain and three-try star of Galwegians weekend victory in the AIB League, Gavin Duffy. Team manager Brian O'Brien confirmed that Duffy's presence was "to give him a flavour of the squad scene".

Gatland has used squad sessions in the past to introduce some promising young players, notably Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy. Jeremy Staunton picked up an elbow injury in the morning stint and did not train in the afternoon while Belfast Harlequins' prop, Simon Best, had to sit out the post lunch session with a shoulder problem.

Ireland training squad: J Topping (Ballymena), G Murphy (Leicester), K Maggs (Bath), J Bell (Dungannon), M Mostyn (Newport), J Bishop (London Irish), G D'Arcy (Lansdowne), S Payne (Swansea), G Duffy (Galwegians), B O'Driscoll (Blackrock), D Crotty (Garryowen), J Kelly (Cork Constitution), A Horgan (Cork Constitution), R O'Gara (Cork Constitution), D Humphreys (Dungannon), E Elwood (Galwegians), J Staunton (Garryowen), P Stringer (Shannon), B O'Meara (Cork Constitution), K Wood (Harlequins), F Sheehan (Cork Constitution), S Byrne (Blackrock), E Byrne (St Mary's), M Cahill (Buccaneers), P Clohessy (Young Munster), J Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), S Best (Belfast Harlequins), R Casey (Blackrock), M Galwey (Shannon), L Cullen (Blackrock), M O'Kelly (St Mary's), G Longwell (Ballymena), A Quinlan (Shannon), D Wallace (Garryowen), A Ward (Ballynahinch), J O'Connor (Galwegians), E Miller (Terenure), A Foley (Shannon), M O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution), T McWhirter (Ballymena), V Costello (St Mary's).

Motor Sport: British racing firm TWR is to help build a Formula One circuit in Moscow after signing a £66 million deal with the Russian capital's authorities.

Tom Walkinshaw Racing, which owns the Arrows F1 team, has formed a partnership with the city to construct the first F1 circuit in the country on Nagatino Island, south of The Kremlin and Red Square.

The Russian daily newspaper Vedomosti yesterday reported that an agreement between Oxfordshire-based TWR and the Moscow mayoral office had been signed last Friday with work due to start next spring.

A spokesman for the TWR Group, based near Witney, Oxfordshire, refused to confirm yesterday that the company was ploughing more than £16 million into the project and said "figures have yet to be finalised".

Motor Sport: The deal to keep the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was yesterday given the green light by the British Racing Drivers' Club. Members of the BRDC voted unanimously in favour of rubber-stamping the agreement with management company Octagon at an extraordinary general meeting.

The agreement, announced at the beginning of this month, grants Octagon a 15-year lease to manage the Northamptonshire circuit. It means major new improvements will be made to the circuit and its facilities, safeguarding the future of the grand prix at the venue for the foreseeable future.

Rugby: Welsh rugby authorities came under fire yesterday following a court case which saw Bridgend prop Chris Stephens ordered to pay £2,000 compensation to a rival player he almost blinded in one eye.

Cross Keys full-back Ioan Bebb had to undergo an operation to save the sight in one eye following an on-pitch attack by Bridgend's Chris Stephens in a Welsh/Scottish League match. He has suffered a 25 per cent loss in vision from a detached retina and has been forced to retire from the game.

Stephens, a 25-year-old Wales A player, was yesterday ordered by a court to pay the compensation and do 200 hours of community.