Former Leinster Lions coach, Matt Williams believes that the Celtic League, which he coached Leinster to win in 2001 is set to become one of the world’s greatest rugby tournaments.
Matt Williams knows precisely what it takes to win a Celtic League title – and the former Leinster Lions coach believes the revamped League is poised to become one of the world’s greatest rugby tournaments.
It is two weeks and counting to the big blast-off to a competition won by Williams and his Leinster Lions side in 2002 and by Munster last season. And Williams, who will take over the coaching reins of the Scottish national side from Ian McGeechan after the 2003 World Cup on a four-year contract, is adamant that the Celtic League will be the stage on which he will judge players for the 2007 World Cup hosted by France.
“The Celtic League has to become to the three Celtic countries what the Currie Cup is to South African rugby and the NPC is to New Zealand rugby,” said Williams.
“It has, first and foremost, to be an area of excellence. But it must also be an area to put young players in and see what they are capable of achieving – and the expanded format of the competition certainly allows for that to happen.
“From my own experiences with Leinster, I can categorically state that Aidan McCullen – who has now been capped – and David Quinlan caught the eye of the Irish selectors thanks to the Celtic League. The tournament gave them the opportunity to play against quality opposition.
“Now, in World Cup year, this season’s Celtic League will be a lot about the next generation of players.
“The public would be totally wrong to think it is going to be a sub-standard competition without the big names because what they will be seeing will be the players for the next World Cup, some really exciting young footballers.
“All the Scottish professional coaches met at Murrayfield last Thursday, (21st August) to discuss the blueprint for the next few years and a lot of the players we will be looking at with that in mind will be playing in the Celtic League during the coming World Cup.
All in all I am convinced it is going to be an extremely interesting tournament – the changes to the format of the Celtic League have shifted the boundaries and brought added value to the competition.
“The big unknown is the impact the new Welsh regional sides will make but whatever that may be, it is going to be extremely difficult title to win.”