Gavin Quinnell loses sight in his left eye after on-field incident

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One of the union game's most celebrated families, the Quinnells of Llanelli, spoke yesterday of their collective distress at the news that one of three rugby-playing brothers had lost the sight in his left eye following an incident in a fixture last weekend. Gavin Quinnell, brother of Welsh internationals Scott and Craig and the son of the 1970s British and Irish Lions forward Derek, was injured during the Welsh Premiership match between Llanelli and Cross Keys at Pandy Park. Gwent Police are investigating an allegation of assault.

The 26-year-old lock rejoined his hometown club during the summer after a spell with the Italian side Viadana and had been included in the Scarlets' 37-man squad for the Heineken Cup. He underwent surgery at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport last Saturday night. In a consultation with ophthalmic specialists on Wednesday afternoon, he was told his loss of vision would be permanent.

A statement jointly issued by family and club thanked Llanelli fans for their messages of support. "The family would like to add that Gavin is coping well, given what he has been through, and they are all very proud of the way he is handling the situation," it read. "Naturally, they are shocked and devastated, and have asked to be given time to come to terms with the news. It is very sad for all those connected with Llanelli... and rugby as a whole."

Northampton have confirmed that Chris Ashton, their recently-capped England wing, will be fit to face the French club Castres in this evening's Heineken Cup opener at Franklin's Gardens. Ashton suffered a foot injury after putting two tries past Bath in a one-sided Premiership match at the same venue last month and left the ground on crutches, but his inclusion on tonight's team sheet will ease fears that he might miss the international against New Zealand at Twickenham on 6 November.

Castres will be led by the All Black back-rower Chris Masoe, who will be accompanied up front by the Scotland lock Scott Murray. The wing Marc Andreu, so exciting in last season's Six Nations Championship, is on the bench.

Sale, meanwhile, say their young captain James Gaskell will be out of circulation for at least two months after damaging ankle ligaments in training.