Source: ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Women’s Celtic Challenge returns with expanded competition format

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  • The Celtic Challenge returns for the third year running with the launch set for December 2024
  • The 2024/25 Celtic Challenge tournament expands to ten rounds, enabling more game time and development opportunities for the six competing teams on the pathway to Women’s Rugby World Cup England 2025

The 2024/25 competition continues its expansion as the biggest and best competition yet, with a full league season of 10 rounds, and six teams playing five home and five away fixtures each, before concluding their season in March ahead of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations 2025. The overall winner will be determined based on league table standings at the end of the 30-game season.

This season, the first after a successful pilot year, saw some impressive gains with 68 players from the Celtic Challenge going on to feature in this year’s Guinness Women’s Six Nations competition, with eight making their full international debut for their respective countries, increasing the opportunities available to home-grown talent in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The competition also saw growth off the pitch with increased attendances recorded and broadcast partnerships cemented with BBC Scotland, BBC Wales, and Rugby Pass TV, with all matches streamed live, driving visibility around the world and bringing new fans to the game.

The Celtic Challenge is the first women’s cross-border club competition, organised by the IRFU, Scottish Rugby, and WRU with support from World Rugby. The tournament provides a high-performance platform for young female players and helps bridge the gap between the domestic and international women’s games in the three Celtic nations.

Gillian McDarby, Irish Rugby’s Head of Women’s Performance & Pathways said: “Last year the Celtic Challenge competition provided valuable game time for emerging talent and is an important platform for growing the game in Ireland. With the continued investment in developing our pathways, the competition remains integral to ensuring we have a competitive Irish national team.”

Nigel Walker, Welsh Rugby Union’s Executive Director of Rugby, said: “The Celtic Challenge is a key part of the Welsh Rugby Union’s strategy for the women’s game in Wales and has already seen the likes of Gwennan Hopkins, Sian Jones, Molly Reardon, Catherine Richards and Mollie Wilkinson play in the tournament and then make their Wales debuts in the recent Six Nations campaign.

“It has already proved its value from a performance point of view and players and coaches will see it as a pivotal step in the pathway to professional and international recognition. We are highly ambitious around the Celtic Challenge and our two teams – Gwalia Lightning and Brython Thunder. We believe it has just scratched the surface and has an exciting future.”

Gemma Fay, Head of Women & Girls’ Strategy at Scottish Rugby, 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.”

Further details including fixtures and launch dates are set to be released ahead of the 2024/25 season and can be found at celticrugbycomp.com.

With thanks to World Rugby

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