Following on from the success of this year’s inaugural competition the Celtic League is set to grow with an additional Scottish side competing next season
Following on from the success of this year’s inaugural competition the Celtic League is set to grow with an additional Scottish side competing next season and the possibility of increased Welsh participation.
Now the tournament organisers are planning the format for the 2001/2002 season, with Irish representation set to remain at four provinces, Scotland poised to include a third team and Wales still to confirm their starting figure.
But with 27,000 going through the Lansdowne Road turnstiles for the gripping final, and around 20,000 watching the semi-finals, the Celtic League has made its mark in a big way.
“The Scots want to introduce a third team next season and we will be continuing with our four.” said Philip Browne, Chief Executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union. “Now it is down to Wales to decide how many teams they wish to include. We have heard there could be seven or eight, but however many they put forward we will have to find the right formula for all three countries.
“Following the Six Nations decision to condense their championship to seven weeks next season, we now have to wait and see where ERC wish to place their competitions, the Heineken Cup and Parker Pen Shield, in the season. I don’t think we are going to be able to complete the competition before Christmas next year, but we might be able to complete the Pool or league stages and then fit in the knock-out games later on. But the standard of the tournament has been excellent and many of the games have been on a par with European games. The final was certainly a very exciting and physical affair. We have been pleasantly surprised at the success of our inaugural season and now we hope to sit down after Christmas to discuss a way forward for next winter.
Meanwhile, the Leinster and Munster teams will share a bonus pool of #60,000 as a consequence of reaching last Saturday’s final. Each Provincial squad will receive #30,000 for distribution amongst its players in a special bonus payment from the IRFU in recognition of reaching the final. The bonus gesture is in keeping with payments made by the IRFU in the past when teams reached the Heineken European Cup final.