Celtic Challenge announces doubling of regular season

The six teams - including Glasgow and Edinburgh - will play each other home and away in an expanded league set-up.

Alex Stewart
Alex Stewart in action for Edinburgh in the Celtic Challenge game against the Wolfhounds. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

NEXT season’s Celtic Challenge, due to begin in December, will have a regular season of ten games rather than the five it had in its last campaign. The six teams – Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Brythion Thunder, Gwalia Lightning, Wolfhounds and Clovers – will now play each other home and away.

Last season the league was split into a top three and a bottom three after five rounds, with each team playing the other two sides in its half of that split. Now, however, the competition will conclude after the ten regular rounds and be decided on a straightforward league basis. with the winners being the team who are top of the table after those rounds.

The Challenge at the start of this year was the second – but the first in which Edinburgh and the Warriors competed. In season one Scotland’s representatives were called the Thistles. There was a marked increase in interest in the tournament this season, partly because of the involvement of Scotland’s two professional sides. It also proved its usefulness by giving club players such as Alex Stewart of Corstorphine Cougars a taste of representative rugby before the Six Nations.

Gemma Fay, the SRU’s head of Women & Girls’ Strategy, said: “The 2023/24 iteration of the Celtic Challenge has been successful for Scottish Rugby in supporting us to provide another step in our pipeline to international rugby in Scotland. We have seen 35 players move from our pathway to playing for Edinburgh Rugby or Glasgow Warriors, with six of those training with Scotland Women during the Guinness Six Nations including Alex Stewart, who earned her first cap.

“The expansion of the competition this season has also given us strong benchmarks to work from both on and off the pitch – from results, player development, media to spectators – and we look forward to exploring how we can further support this for next season.”

Edinburgh managing director Douglas Struth added: “I’m excited we can announce the second season of our women’s side. The team’s first season was a huge step forward for the club, and I can’t wait to see how they can develop in the expanded competition.

“It’s an extremely exciting time in women’s rugby – with Scotland getting a sell-out crowd at Hive Stadium, and the viewing figures of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations reaching outstanding new heights. It’s brilliant to be involved, and I can’t wait to see the Edinburgh fans get behind the team this season.”

Warriors MD Al Kellock said: “We’re pleased to be able to confirm that our women’s squad will once again be competing in the Celtic Challenge – it’s a competition that has the potential to provide a new platform and a new opportunity for some of Scotland’s brightest talents, and one that proved extremely popular with our supporters in its first season.

“The newly-expanded competition will also allow our supporters to further get behind their newest Warriors, with the atmosphere at Scotstoun something that each of our players noted across their involvement in the Celtic Challenge this season. We’re proud to be involved once more, and we look forward to seeing our women’s squad run out at Scotstoun again later this year.”

The season will run from December to March, ending shortly before the start of the Women’s Six Nations. Fixtures are expected to be announced in the run-up to the 2024-25 season.

Ireland’s Wolfhounds won the last competition, winning six and drawing one of their seven games and ending up seven points clear of runners-up Edinburgh. Clovers, the other Irish team, were third. Wales’ representatives Lightning and Thunder finished fourth and fifth respectively, while the Warriors brought up the rear.

About Stuart Bathgate 1415 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

1 Comment

  1. Tremendous news. The initial tournament was fun to watch and great to see our ladies get a clear pathway to higher level, more intense rugby.
    Clearly it will have an even bigger impact than last season on the clubs who provided most of the squads for both teams, by that I mean Watsons, Hills, Stirling, Cougars and Heriots. Edinburgh University also provided a sizeable contingent. How it will effect the Ladies Premier League and the Sarah Beaney Cup may be an issue, because certain Clubs do not have strength in depth. Hopefully, this will be taken into consideration before the new season starts and clubs can prepare accordingly.
    Another issue that should be addressed is ticketing. Would it be possible for Glasgow and Edinburgh men’s season ticket holders to either use their tickets free of charge or for a small increased fee upgrade their card to allow them to watch the ladies. By increasing the viewing numbers you will probably increase the atmosphere and encourage others to take up the game.
    Last season there appeared to be a big difference in playing strength with Edinburgh and Glasgow, how can this be addressed without calling on the East of Scotland clubs to provide more players to Glasgow?
    This is a big step forward from the Celtic Nations towards getting a proper league competition in place to match the English Premier League. Once again, a great idea, onwards and upwards and let’s see how it works out.

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