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Celtic Challenge Returns With Expanded Format

Combined Provinces XV vs Welsh Development XV

Ireland international Aoife Wafer races clear to score for the Combined Provinces against the Welsh Development team at Kingspan Stadium last season ©John Dickson/Dickson Digital

The Celtic Challenge tournament, a cross-border club competition organised by the IRFU, Scottish Rugby and the WRU with financial support from World Rugby, has been confirmed to run for a second year and will span an 11-week period from December 18, 2023 to March 3, 2024.

The Celtic Challenge provides a high-performance platform ahead of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations and aims to bridge the gap between the domestic and international Women’s games in the three Celtic nations.

Ireland’s Combined Provinces team were unbeaten in the inaugural pilot tournament which took place across January and February this year.

The upcoming tournament will be expanded to include two teams from each Union with a total of six teams competing.

The expansion offers further opportunities to increase the number of fixtures played, providing more competitive game-time and appealing to more players to compete in their country of origin which will ultimately underpin the strength and sustainability of the international game.

The tournament also enables the clubs to increase depth off the field with development opportunities for members of the coaching, medical, strength and conditioning and operational teams.

World Rugby Chief of Women’s Rugby, Sally Horrox, said: “The feedback from the inaugural year of the Celtic Challenge has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s been impressive to see 24 players already going on to compete in the Women’s Six Nations, who might not have had the opportunity otherwise.

We’re looking forward to seeing the competition grow as more teams compete, we strengthen our pathways and increase competitiveness on the road to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2025.”

Celtic Challenge Competition Manager Josh Payne commented: “Following the successful pilot, it is clear to see the development opportunity that is now available for aspiring and promising players through the tournament, and the impact it has already had on the national teams in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations.

Our focus continues to be providing female players with the right tools and experience to prepare them for the next stage of their rugby journey, whether that be as a professional rugby player or representative honours.”

The Celtic Challenge continues to be financially supported by World Rugby through its commitment to advancing the competitiveness of the elite Women’s game.

Further fixture details, including teams, venues and kick-off times, will be confirmed by the respective Unions at the beginning of December.