Rugby’s Celtic Challenge: All You Need to Know About The New Look Format

Rugby’s Celtic Challenge: All You Need to Know About The New Look Format
Alanna Cunnane
Alanna Cunnane

Rugby's Celtic Challenge debuted last season, with the aim of providing a platform for players to develop in a high performance environment, but what’s changed about it this year, and what does that mean for the competition and its players?

What’s the new format of the Celtic Challenge?

The competition retains its core format of a cross border face off between the IRFU (Ireland), Scottish Rugby and the WRU (Wales), although this time it will take palace over an 11 week period.

There’s also a new look in terms of the amount of teams and the structure of the tournament.

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This time, six teams, two from each nation, will battle it out across five rounds.

Subsequently, and as a result of the standings, the playoffs will consist of three rounds, and will ultimately see one team crowned the overall winner.

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Who’s participating in the Celtic Challenge?

Last time out the Irish players competed on behalf of the Combined Provinces XV, but this time around there’s been a slight shake up, given the addition of more team slots.

Irish players will play under two banners, Connacht and Munster as the Clovers, and Leinster and Ulster as the Wolfhounds.

Scotland’s teams are listed as Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors, while Wales opted for Brython Thunder and Gwalia Lightning.

Interestingly, it has been stated by the IRFU that “in order to provide quality game time and positional cover, there will also be some crossover with the provincial players.”

When and when are the games?

The competition spans from December 29th 2023 to March 3rd 2024, with the first game teeing up a derby day clash for the home Unions.

In the Irish case that sees the Wolfhounds and the Clovers come to blows at Musgrave Park, with Energia Park and Kingspan Stadium the other home venues.
The full fixture outline is listed as follows:

Rugby's Celtic Challenge fixtures. Photo source- Irish rugby

Rugby's Celtic Challenge fixtures. Photo source- Irish rugby

What have the IRFU said about the Celtic Challenge?

Gillian McDarby, IRFU Head of Women’s Performance and Pathways, commented on the fresh format for the competition, mentioning that its “an integral tournament for the development of women’s rugby players in Ireland.”

“It will play a significant role in the player pathway moving forward,” she says.

On the decision to move beyond one team per organisation was due to a “collective goal of the three unions to elevate the Celtic Challenge to the highest level of competition possible, ensuring that players are in the best position to compete in the Women’s 6N.”

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