Celtic Cup fixtures announced

Celtic Cup fixtures announced

Ulster A will open their Celtic Cup campaign with a trip to play Scarlets on 23rd-25th August.

The Celtic Cup is a week-to week-competition for emerging professional players from the four Irish provinces and four Welsh regions which is run over eight consecutive weeks.

In a change to the 2018 structure, this year’s Celtic Cup is a straight league format with each team playing seven games and the top two ranked sides advancing to the final on Saturday 12th October.

The competition features development squads from Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Blues, Dragons, Scarlets and the Ospreys.

A host of players across all four Irish provinces used the competition as a springboard to advance their claims for exposure at provincial senior level while others would go on to play a central role in Ireland’s U20 Six Nations Grand Slam success.

The following players who featured in the Celtic Cup last season went on to represent their senior provincial side in the Guinness PRO14; Robert Balacoune, Bruce Houston (both Ulster), Jack Dunne, Scott Penny, Ryan Baird (all Leinster), Alex McHenry, Liam Coombes, Diarmuid Barron (all Munster), Colm de Buitlear (Connacht).

Robert Balacoune scored two tries for Ulster in the Champions Cup, while Connacht’s Matthew Burke made five appearances in the pool stages of the Challenge Cup.

Aaron Sexton was Ulster’s top try scorer in last year’s competition and has since been rewarded with an Academy contract with the northern province.

Members of Ireland’s U20’s squad that achieved a Six Nations Grand Slam and delivered strong performances at the Junior World Cup in Argentina featured prominently in the Celtic Cup at the start of last season; Stuart Moore (Ulster), Sean French, Ben Healy, John Hodnett, Josh Wycherley (all Munster), Niall Murray, Dylan Tierney-Martin (both Connacht), David Hawkshaw, Liam Turner and Tom Clarkson (all Leinster).

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented, “The Celtic Cup delivered a lot of what we had hoped it would. The players got exposed to the week-to-week preparation and recovery that senior professional players must manage and took a huge amount of learnings from those experiences.

“From a coaching perspective, the Celtic Cup simulated the challenges and pressures of preparing and developing a group of players, while seeking improvement in performance each week. The competition also plays an important role in the development of our support staff and that of our referees.”

2019 CELTIC CUP FIXTURES

Weekend 1: 23-25 Aug
Cardiff v Leinster
Munster v Ospreys
Scarlets v Ulster
Connacht v Dragons

Weekend 2: 30 Aug – 1 Sep
Leinster v Scarlets
Dragons v Munster
Ulster v Cardiff Blues
Ospreys v Connacht

Weekend 3: 6-8 Sep
Munster v Leinster
Ulster v Connacht
Scarlets v Ospreys
Cardiff Blues v Dragons

Weekend 4: 13-15 Sep
Connacht v Munster
Leinster v Ulster
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues
Dragons v Scarlets

Weekend 5: 20-22 Sep
Ospreys v Leinster
Munster v Cardiff Blues
Dragons v Ulster
Connacht v Scarlets

Weekend 6: 27-29 Sep
Leinster v Dragons
Scarlets v Munster
Ulster v Ospreys
Cardiff Blues v Connacht

Weekend 7: 4-6 Oct
Connacht v Leinster
Ulster v Munster
Cardiff Blues v Scarlets
Dragons v Ospreys

Final: 12 Oct
TBC