Source: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Celtic Challenge – Round 5

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Prospects Plus Play-off News

This weekend sees the final round of the regular season.
The details of the play-off stages have just been made known. They follow below. Brython Thunder and Glasgow Warriors must already be condemned to Pool B; teams in places 2-4 have everything to play for.

The Table after 4 Rounds                W    L    B    Pts

Wolfhounds                                            4     0     3      19
Edinburgh Rugby                                  3      1     3      15
Clovers                                                     3      1     2      14
Gwalia Lightning                                   2      2     3      11
Brython Thunder                                   0      4     1        1
Glasgow Warriors                                  0      4     0       0

The line-up for this round posts 2nd v 3rd, 1st v 4th and 5th v 6th.

Fixtures (3 February):

Edinburgh Rugby v Clovers, The Hive, Edinburgh, KO 12.30
Wolfhounds v Gwalia Lightning, Donnybrook, Dublin, KO 14.30
Brython Thunder v Glasgow Warriors, Stadiwm CSM, Colwyn Bay, KO 14.30

It’s good to see Wolfhounds leading the way. After a number of commentators, including me, found it hard making room for Irish players in a Lions’ XV, their experience and quality has seen them through to the fifth round unbeaten. Now they are at home in the capital at the old home of the national team, now known as Energia Park.

Brython pay their one visit to north Wales where they take on the equally winless Glasgow. We will see whether that provides enough encouragement for spectators to turn out in good numbers.
Edinburgh know a home win will assure them of a place in the top three.

And the Future

Can the Challenge can be extended even further next year? On balance it seems unlikely. Its scope was doubled after its inaugural season last year, three teams became six. But there is no obvious way of creating more clubs or franchises, and the calendar is the surest way of limiting ambition.

The CC’s ultimate value will be performances and results in next month’s Six Nations. If it helps individual unions to refine their pathways and other structures, that will be an added bonus.
As the competition stands currently, it fits neatly into a mid-winter slot, to give managements time to decide on training squads for their Six Nations sides to appear in late March. The weather has thus far been supportive. At least no matches have had to be postponed.

As for that newest version of the 6N: it remains to be seen whether these advances will help to narrow the gap in attainment that has bugged the tournament from its start back in the last millennium.
Link the CC to the Latin Challenge, involving four Italian and Spanish franchises, and you can see World Rugby’s efforts to help nations develop a wider player-pool and higher standards. Six of the eight teams involved have the Six Nations as their target; the exceptions are the two Spanish groups, but their future still looks to be locked outside. I’ll leave you to decide the justice of that verdict.

Teams

Edinburgh Rugby
15. Nicole Marlow (Cardiff Met), 14. Nicole Flynn (University of Edinburgh), 13. Emma Orr (Heriot’s/ Biggar), 12. Lisa Thomson (GB Sevens), 11. Cieron Bell (University of Edinburgh), 10. Sarah Denholm (captain, University of Edinburgh), 9. Leia Brebner-Holden (Gloucester Hartpury and Cheltenham Tigers), 1. Panashe Muzambe (Exeter Chiefs), 2. Millie Whitehouse (University of Edinburgh), 3. Molly Poolman (Watsonians), 4. Adelle Ferrie (Corstorphine Cougars), 5. Natasha Logan (University of Edinburgh), 6. Merryn Gunderson (Corstorphine Cougars), 7. Alex Stewart (Corstorphine Cougars), 8. Freya Walker (Watsonian)

Bench
16. Aila Ronald (University of Edinburgh), 17. Poppy Fletcher (University of Edinburgh), 18. Katie Lindsay (Corstorphine Cougars), 19. Fiona McIntosh (Saracens), 20. Samanther Taganekurukuru (Stirling County), 21. Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning), 22. Briar McNamara (Watsonians), 23. Hannah Walker (University of Edinburgh)

Clovers
15. Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht), 14. Chisom Ugwueru (UL Bohemian RFC/ Munster), 13. Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 12. Kayla Waldron (Railway Union RFC/ Connacht), 11. Alana McInerney (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 10. Kate Flannery (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 9. Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), 1. Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), 2. Beth Buttimer (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 3. Róisín Ormond (Ballincollig RFC/ Munster), 4. Ruth Campbell (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), 5. Dorothy Wall (captain, Blackrock College RFC/Munster), 6. Jane Clohessy (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 7. Brianna Heylmann (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 8. Shannon Touhey (Tullamore RFC/Connacht)

Bench
16. Aoife Fleming (Ballincollig RFC/Munster), 17. Grainne Burke (Ennis RFC/Munster), 18. Roisin Maher (Galwegians RFC/Connacht), 19. Claire Bennett (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 20. Sarah McCormick (Galwegians RFC/Connacht), 21. Muirne Wall (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), 22. Michelle O’Driscoll (Ballincollig RFC/Munster), 23. Amy Larn (MU Barnhall RFC/Leinster)

Glasgow Warriors
1 Ailie Tucker, 2 Nikki Simpson, 3 Chloe Brown, 4 Eve Thomson,5 Emma Turner (co-captain), 6 Holland Bogan, 7 Izzy Hannay, 8 Megan Hyland, 9 Rhea Clarke (co-captain), 10 Ceitidh Ainsworth, 11 Pearl Kellie, 12 Giselle Chicot, 13 Claudia McLaren, 14 Roma Fraser, 15 Carla McDonald

Bench
16 Aicha Sutcliffe, 17 Debbie Lee, 18 Kaylee Fraser, 19 Ellie Williamson, 20 Ali Orr, 21 Lucy Winter, 22 Mairi McDonald, 23 Lucy MacRae

Wolfhounds
15. Ava Ryder (Railway Union RFC/Connacht), 14. Katie Corrigan (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), 13. Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), 12. Katie Heffernan (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), 11. Niamh Marley (Dungannon RFC/Cooke RFC/Ulster), 10. Nikki Caughey (Railway Union RFC/ Leinster), 9. Jade Gaffney (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), 1. Aoife Moore (Blackrock College RFC/ Leinster), 2. Meabh Clenaghan (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster), 3. Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen RFC/Railway Union RFC/Ulster), 4. Eimear Corri (Blackrock Rugby/Leinster),
5. Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), 6. Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster), 7. Molly Boyne ((captain, Railway Union RFC/Leinster), 8. Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster)

Bench
16. India Daley (Blackrock College RFC/Ulster), 17. Megan Collis (Railway Union/Leinster), 18. Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), 19. Keelin Brady (Railway Union RFC/Ulster), 20. Grace Moore (Saracens), 21. Katie Whelan (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), 22. Abby Moyles (Blackrock RFC/Ulster), 23. Leah Tarpey (Railway Union RFC/Leinster)

The two Welsh squads are yet to be published.

The Play-offs

At last we have (incomplete) news of how the play-offs will be staged. As expected, the six teams will be divided into two pools, decided by their finishing positions in Round Five.

The two sets of play-offs will follow across three weekends, 17 February – 3 March; each round to take place in the three countries in turn.
The pattern looks like this:

Top three:

1 v 3
3 v 2
2 v 1

Bottom three:

4 v 6
6 v 5
5 v 4

The incompleteness comes here: we can’t know the details of the six fixtures till next week. It all depends on the weekend’s results.

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