The format for the third season of the tournament involving the 12 top teamsfrom Ireland, Scotland and Wales will see each team play 22 fixtures on a home and away basis with the climax to the competition coming on the weekend of 14th/15th May, 2004.
The Celtic League will continue to run throughout the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the 2004 RBS Six Nations Championship in tandem with the exciting new Celtic Cup knock-out tournament. The final of the Cup competition, on 20th December, will be televised live on BBC Grandstand.
"The implementation of home and away fixtures for the 12 competing teams - in the previous two tournaments they have been split into two Poolswith the successful sides progressing to knock-out phases - will guarantee all teams having a fair crack of the whip," said Keith Grainger, Tournament Director of the Celtic League.
"Every team will now have those 22 top quality fixtures spread over nine months and, with the introduction of the Celtic Cup, the 20th December finalists could end up having played 26 high intensity and high profileCeltic matches with a hugely welcome steady stream of income.,p>"With all the teams also taking part in one or other of the ERC European competitions, we believe the top players will only be competing in the most meaningful of matches that should go a long way towards enhancing standards in the Celtic nations and preparing players for the demands ofinternational rugby."
John Hussey, Chairman of the Celtic League, welcomed the arrival of the
"The League will establish our Celtic champions over the long haul of theentire season while the Cup will provide us with our Celtic knock-out specialists and I am sure the two competitions will provide supporters with an abundance of exciting and high level rugby."
The competing teams in the Celtic League and Celtic Cup are: Ireland: Connacht, Leinster Lions, Munster, Ulster
Scotland: Edinburgh Rugby, Glasgow Rugby, The Borders.
Wales: Bridgend/Pontypridd, Cardiff Blues, Gwent Dragons, Llanelli,Neath/Swansea