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IRFU announce new women’s tournament alongside Wales and Scotland


The IRFU have launched a new women’s tournament, alongside the Welsh and Scottish rugby unions, called the Celtic Challenge.

One team from each of the Irish, Welsh and Scottish unions will compete in the tournament in the first year, while the aim is to launch a six team tournament with two from each union in 2024.

The 2023 Celtic Challenge will see each team play two home games and two away games, with the last round of fixtures set to take place four weeks before the 2023 Women’s Six Nations kicks off.

Ireland will be represented by a Combined Provinces XV in next year’s tournament, while Wales will be represent by a WRU Development XV and Scotland will be represented by The Thistles.

Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams and the national coaching team will take charge the Combined Provinces XV, which will be made up of professionally contracted players and amateur club players.

Gillian McDarby welcomes the Celtic Challenge.

Head of women’s performance and pathways Gillian McDarby described the Celtic Challenge as a means of bridging the gap between the player pathway and international rugby.

“The three partner unions have worked closely together to put the necessary supports in place to help establish this competition,” McDarby said.

“It is vital at this stage of the sport’s development that we establish sustainable competition models that bridge the gap between the player pathway and the international game.

“The ambition across the three Unions is to increase the number of competing teams in 2024 to six and over the course of the next 3-5 years it is the IRFU’s ambition to have four Irish teams competing in this tournament.”

Combined Provinces XV fixtures.

WRU Development XV v Combined Provinces XV
Sunday 29th January 2023 – Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff

Combined Provinces XV v The Thistles
Saturday 4th February 2023 – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

Combined Provinces XV v WRU Development XV
Saturday 18th February 2023 – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast

The Thistles v Combined Provinces XV
Sunday 25th February 2023 – TBC

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