Sports Digest


A round-up of today's other stories in brief...

Top World Cup draw for Ireland

RUGBY LEAGUE: Ireland have been drawn in the same group as heavyweights Australia, England and Fiji in Group A for the 2013 World Cup. England and Fiji both reached the semi-final stages two years ago, with Australia losing the final to New Zealand.

The 2013 finals will be held in Britain and the competition has been enlarged from 10 teams to 14.

Wales, who failed to qualify in 2008, and Cook Islands, who were runners-up to Papua New Guinea in the 2009 Pacific Cup, were confirmed as two of the additional teams, with the other two to come from qualifying tournaments to be held in 2011 in Serbia and America.

Three teams from each of the two main groups will progress to the last eight.

Group A:England, Australia, Fiji, Ireland (three go through to quarter-finals).

Group B:New Zealand, France, Papua New Guinea, Samoa (three go through to quarter-finals). Group C: Scotland, Tonga, European qualifier (winners through to quarter-finals). Group D: Wales, Cook Islands, Atlantic qualifier (winners through to quarter-finals).

Nine FI seats yet to be filled

MOTOR SPORT: The FIA’s official entry list for the 2011 Formula One season has revealed six teams are still to confirm their full driver line-ups.

Lotus join Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes in naming an unchanged driver pairing, while Sauber were the only other team to name both drivers – with F1 new boy Sergio Perez alongside Kamui Kobayashi.

Vitaly Petrov’s future at Renault remains uncertain with the Russian absent from the list, Rubens Barrichello’s team-mate at Williams is also unconfirmed, with the team having revealed Nico Hulkenberg would not be retained.

2011 ENTRY LIST:Red Bull Racing – S Vettel M Webber; McLaren – J Button, L Hamilton; Ferrari – F Alonso, F Massa; Mercedes GP – M Schumacher, N Rosberg; Renault – R Kubica, TBA; Williams – R Barrichello, TBA; Force India – TBA, TBA; Sauber – K Kobayashi, S Perez; Toro Rosso – TBA,TBA; Team Lotus – J Trulli, H Kovalainen; Hispania – TBA,TBA; Virgin Racing – TBA, TBA

Sharapova to lead Russia in Fed Cup tie against France

TENNIS: Maria Sharapova will lead Russia in their Fed Cup first-round tie against France on February 5th-6th, the country’s tennis chief said yesterday.

“Sharapova has agreed to play the first round,” Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation and their Fed Cup captain, said.

“She is now fully recovered from the problems with her shoulder and again could challenge for the number one spot.”

Former world number one Sharapova has struggled to regain her best form after a nine-month lay-off following shoulder surgery at the end of 2008. The Florida-based Russian finished this year ranked 18 in the world.

Sharapova made her first and only other Fed Cup appearance for Russia in a 4-1 victory over Israel in February 2008.

Tarpishchev said 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will complete Russia’s line-up for the tie.

Cancellara joins Schlecks’ team

CYCLING: Four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara has joined the Schleck brothers team on a three-year deal, the Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project said yesterday.

Swiss Cancellara, who achieved a rare Tour of Flanders Paris-Roubaix classics double this year, is joining from Bjarne Riis’s Saxo Bank team.

Doherty ahead in UK qualifier

SNOOKER: Ken Doherty leads Rod Lawler 5-3 after yesterday’s first session of the final qualifying round for the UK Championship.

The Dubliner needs to win four more frames this morning to secure his place in the competition.

Fergal O’Brien trails Barry Hawkins 6-2 overnight.