Welsh recall tests Delve's Rebel resolve

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The Independent Online

The offer to join up with Danny Cipriani at the Melbourne Rebels may not seem as attractive to Gareth Delve as it was this morning. Warren Gatland finally brought the Gloucester captain in from the international wilderness yesterday and put him straight into contention for Saturday's Six Nations encounter in Dublin.

Delve has not featured in the national set-up since he declined to go on last summer's tour to North America. But such has been his form at Kingsholm, the calls for Gatland to hand the 27-year-old a recall have almost outnumbered the calls to his agent for his signature next season. Delve is on his way out of the West Country with his main options being the Cardiff Blues and the new Super 14 franchise.

Delve traversed the bridge primarily as cover for No 8 Ryan Jones. Wales have been one backrower light since Andy Powell's ejection for that early-morning buggy ride down the M4. And despite Neil Jenkins, the skills coach, saying yesterday "we think Ryan will be fine", Delve could still play a part at Croke Park.

What does seem certain is that Matthew Rees, the Lions hooker, will make his first appearance in this Championship after recovering from a groin injury. But what will Warren Gatland do with another Lion in Mike Phillips? The scrum-half made his first start in five months against Edinburgh on Sunday. After watching his side concede big leads in each of the three matches so far, Gatland must be tempted to employ Phillips from the off. Ireland, who also name their team today, will be interested to discover their former coach's decision. Just as they will be to hear if he has any more of his infamous grenades to roll.

The build-ups to the last two meetings have been steeped in Gatland-produced acrimony. In 2008, he all but accused his then counterpart, Eddie O'Sullivan, of conspiring against him when he was his assistant. And last year he claimed "the Welsh dislike the Irish the most". "It will be interesting to see what sort of verbal warfare he will enter into this week," commented Conor O'Shea, the incoming Harlequins coach. "But he should know that this Irish camp will not rise to the bait."

*Italian teams Treviso and Aironi Rugby will join the Celtic League next season. The Italian rugby federation hopes the move to allow Italian sides to play in the Irish, Scottish and Welsh domestic league will improve the standard of the country's top players.

Driving ban for JPR: Williams pays penalty

*Former Wales and Lions rugby star JPR Williams put coins in his mouth to try to trick a breath test when he was arrested for drink-driving, a court heard yesterday. Williams, who played full-back for the all-conquering Welsh sides of the 1970s, was fined £380 and banned for 17 months after admitting the charge. Cardiff Magistrates' Court heard the 61-year-old was stopped in his red Audi cabriolet after spending the day watching a match.

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