THE CELTIC CHALLENGE cross-border tournament featuring select sides from Scotland, Ireland and Wales will return for a second run next month, in an expanded format to last season’s pilot competition, with each country now contributing two teams instead of one playing over an 11-week period from 18th December 2023 to 3rd March 2024.
The primary purpose of The Celtic Challenge is to bridge the gap between the domestic and international women’s games in the three Celtic nations and thereby provide a high-performance launchpad for players heading into the TikTok Women’s Six Nations which will run on consecutive weekends from 23rd March through to the 27th April.
A statement by World Rugby, who are providing financial support to the tournament, explained: “The expansion offers further opportunities to increase the number of fixtures played, providing more competitive game time and appealing to more players to compete in their country of origin which will ultimately underpin the strength and sustainability of the international game. The tournament also enables the clubs to increase depth off the field with development opportunities for members of the coaching, medical, strength and conditioning and operational teams.”
Further fixture details including teams, venues and kick-off times will be confirmed by the respective unions at the beginning of December.
“The expansion of the Celtic Challenge and strengthening of our partnership with the IRFU and WRU is hugely exciting,” said Gemma Fay, Scottish Rugby’s Head of Women & Girls’ Strategy. “In line with our plans we will be growing the competition to feature two teams from each country which we outlined in our 2022-2026 Women & Girls’ Strategy was key in helping us provide an additional level of competition for more of our best players based in Scotland. We look forward to announcing more on our two teams in due course.”
World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox said: “The feedback from the inaugural year of the Celtic Challenge has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s been impressive to see 24 players already going on to compete in the Women’s Six Nations, who might not have had the opportunity otherwise.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the competition grow as more teams compete, we strengthen our pathways and increase competitiveness on the road to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2025.”
Celtic Challenge Competition Manager Josh Payne said: “Following the successful pilot, it is clear to see the development opportunity that is now available for aspiring and promising players through the tournament, and the impact it has already had on the national teams in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
“Our focus continues to be providing female players with the right tools and experience to prepare them for the next stage of their rugby journey, whether that be as a professional rugby player or representative honours.”