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Clarke in the frame for Ryder role

GOLF: The captain of the European side that will defend the Ryder Cup against the US in Minnesota in 2016 will be Darren Clarke or Miguel Angel Jimenez, two stalwarts of the team said yesterday.

World number two Henrik Stenson and sixth-ranked Sergio Garcia both believe it will be a straight fight between the Northern Irishman and the Spaniard over who replaces 2014 skipper Paul McGinley.

"Most likely we're going to see a race between Darren and Miguel," said Stenson ahead of this week's Dubai Desert Classic.

"That's the beauty of being part of the Tournament Players Committee that no longer votes for it. I don't have to put any thought into it, I just have to wait like everybody else until the result comes out."

The captain used to be decided by the players but it is now down to a five-man panel that includes former skippers McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie.

Asked if Clarke or Jimenez would be the next captain, Garcia replied: "It looks like that. I think those are the two big candidates and I think we are all excited to see how it turns out," added Garcia who has made seven Ryder Cup appearances.

The Dubai Desert Classic, which features Rory McIlroy, starts tomorrow.

Rás takes new route

CYCLING: This year's An Post Rás should be a quicker and more battle than its predecessors after the 745-mile route was revealed.

Somo of the more difficult first category climbs have been omitted with the emphasis for 2015 on opening up the possibility of attacks at any stage of the race. The 2015 race will begin in Dunboyne, travelling around Ireland with stage finishes in Carlow, Tipperary, Bearna, Newport, Ballina, Ballinamore and Drogheda, before its traditional concluding stage in Skerries.

Farrell's English woes

RUGBY: England's preparations for the RBS 6 Nations continue to unravel with the news that Owen Farrell will miss the entire Championship because of a knee injury.

Farrell sustained a high grade medial ligament strain in Saracens' European Champions Cup defeat at Clermont on Sunday to further stretch Stuart Lancaster's midfield resources. Farrell's absence has opened the door for Danny Cipriani to claim a place on the bench against Wales with George Ford starting the Championship opener at the Millennium Stadium.