The Celtic Cup begins in August as fixtures announced

The Celtic Cup returns next month as the joint IRFU/WRU development competition looks to build on the value it delivered to young players in the performance pathway last season.

The week to week competition for emerging professional players from the four Irish provinces and four Welsh regions will be over 8 consecutive weeks in the coming season. In a change to last year’s format, 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 will feature development squads from Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Blues, Dragons, Scarlets and the Ospreys.

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

Players who featured in last season’s Celtic Cup before going on to represent their senior provincial side in the Guinness PRO14 include Jack Dunne, Scott Penny, Ryan Baird (Leinster), Alex McHenry, Liam Coombes, Diarmuid Barron (Munster), Colm de Buitléar (Connacht), Robert Balacoune, Bruce Houston (Ulster).

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

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 – Seán French, Ben Healy, John Hodnett, Josh Wycherley (Munster) Niall Murray, Dylan Tierney-Martin from Connacht, David Hawkshaw, Liam Turner, Tom Clarkson (Leinster) and Ulster’s Stuart Moore.

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.

Fixtures

Weekend 1 – Aug 23, 24, 25
Cardiff v Leinster
Munster v Ospreys
Scarlets v Ulster
Connacht v Dragons

Weekend 2 – Aug 30, 31 Sept 1
Leinster v Scarlets
Dragons v Munster
Ulster v Cardiff Blues
Ospreys v Connacht

Weekend 3 – Sept 6, 7, 8
Munster v Leinster
Ulster v Connacht
Scarlets v Ospreys
Cardiff Blues v Dragons

Weekend 4 – Sept 13, 14, 15
Connacht v Munster
Leinster v Ulster
Ospreys v Cardiff Blues
Dragons v Scarlets

Weekend 5 – Sept 20, 12, 22
Ospreys v Leinster
Munster v Cardiff Blues
Dragons v Ulster
Connacht v Scarlets

Weekend 6 – Sept 27, 28, 29
Leinster v Dragons
Scarlets v Munster
Ulster v Ospreys
Cardiff Blues v Connacht

Weekend 7 – Oct 4, 5, 6
Connacht v Leinster
Ulster v Munster
Cardiff Blues v Scarlets
Dragons v Ospreys

Final – Oct 12
TBC

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