The start of the new Magners League season is just over a week away. We take a look back at the Celtic nations’ recent achievements and what we can look forward to when the new competition, which includes end-of-season play-offs for the first time, gets underway on Friday week (September 4).
LOOK WHAT CELTIC RUGBY HAS DELIVERED SINCE 2005…
– Three Grand Slams and three RBS 6 Nations titles – Wales in 2005 and 2008 and Ireland in 2009
– Five Triple Crowns in succession – Ireland in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and Wales in 2005 and 2008
– Three RBS 6 Nations Players of the Year – Martyn Williams in 2005, Shane Williams in 2008 and Brian O’Driscoll in 2006, 2007 and 2009
– IRB Player of the Year Award for Shane Williams in 2008
– British & Irish Lions tour captain in South Africa in 2009 in Paul O’Connell
– 29 players on the 2009 Lions tour and domination of the Test sides with 11, 13 and 10 players in the starting line-ups against the Springboks for the three Test matches respectively
– Three more match captains on the Lions tour – Brian O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ronan O’Gara
– 2009 British & Irish Lions Player of the Tour title for Jamie Roberts
– IRB World Sevens title by Wales in 2009
– IRB Nations Cup victory by Scotland in 2009
– Churchill Cup triumph by Ireland ‘A’ in 2009
– Heineken Cup final wins by Munster in 2006 and 2008 and Leinster in 2009
– EDF Energy Cup successes for the Ospreys in 2008 and Cardiff Blues in 2009
– Under-21 and Under-20 Grand Slams for Wales in 2005 and Ireland in 2007
…AND WHAT THE 2009/10 MAGNERS LEAGUE WILL BE HOME TO
– 37 British & Irish Lions and 26 Test Lions
– 3 Lions Test captains and 3 Grand Slam captains
– 2 Rugby World Cup winners
– 4 Tri Nations winners
– 1 100-Test cap player and 1 on 99 caps
TIME TO PLAY:
The 2009/10 Magners League season will kick off at the new Cardiff Blues stadium when they play last season’s runners-up, Edinburgh, on Friday, September 4.
The Blues have moved a mile-and-a-half across the Welsh capital to join forces with Cardiff City FC at the new, 26,000 all-seater Cardiff City Stadium.
This season’s tournament will welcome ‘home’ two British & Irish Lions – Chris Cusiter (Glasgow) and Nathan Hines (Leinster) – from sojourns in France, as well as another 2005 Lion, Gareth Cooper (Cardiff Blues).
They will boost to 37 the number of Lions players from the 2001, 2005 and 2009 tours playing in the Magners League.
There will also be a sprinkling of top overseas talent to blend with the home grown stars.
New Zealand legend Jerry ‘The Hitman’ Collins has joined the Ospreys, while current Springbok centre Jean de Villiers is on his way to Munster at the end of the Tri Nations series.
THE BIG KICK-OFF – MAGNERS LEAGUE ROUND 1:
Friday, September 4 –
CONNACHT v Ospreys, the Sportsground, 7pm
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh, Cardiff City Staidum, 7.05pm (BBC Wales)
Glasgow Warriors v MUNSTER, Firhill Arena, 8pm (Setanta Sports)
Saturday, September 5 –
Scarlets v LEINSTER, Parc y Scarlets, 6.30pm (S4C)
Sunday, September 6 –
Newport Gwent Dragons v ULSTER, Rodney Parade, 2.05pm (BBC Wales)