Halpin stands down

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The Independent Online

The prop Garry Halpin has withdrawn from Ireland's squad for the rest of the season. His decision comes after a troubled weekend when the Ireland coach, Murray Kidd, called his squad together, forcing England-based players to miss Courage League matches.

Halpin dutifully attended last weekend's get-together while his club, London Irish, were beating Newcastle, but according to reports, Halpin and his international colleague Conor O'Shea, the full-back, could miss six out of the next 10 league matches through international calls.

Halpin, a 29-year-old maths teacher who is giving up a potential pounds 25,000 which he would have earned had he played in his country's full programme of matches this season, said: "I've been thinking about this since the World Cup and I want to spend more time with my family.

"I've thought seriously about the IRFU contract but mine will be a short- term loss. If London Irish go into the First Division, there will be money available, and if they don't, then I can transfer quite easily under the new seven-day rule."

n The British Lions prowl on. The last symbol of the old amateur days, when the best of British used to wander their vast Empire, is to be revived for a tour of South Africa in 1997 at the invitation of the Springboks.

n Tiaan Strauss, the former Springbok captain and No 8, has signed a two-year contract with Rupert Murdoch's professional Super League to play rugby league in Australia. Seven other South African players - Christian Stewart, Andrew Aitken, Heinrich Fuls, Warren Brosnihan, Andy Marinos, Pieter Muller and Kevin Schraader - have also gone over to league.