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Celtic Cup launched to develop emerging talent

15th August 2018

Cardiff Blues kick off their Guinness PRO14 campaign with a home clash against reigning champions Leinster on August 31, and two weeks later their Celtic Cup team will head to the Irish capital to face their counterparts in the new cross-border competition.

It will be a testing start to the new season for Wales' Capital Region across the board, with Leinster the current holders of both the PRO14 and European Champions Cup titles.

Former Wales scrum half Richie Rees is part of the Cardiff Blues coaching team and will be working alongside front row stalwarts T Rhys Thomas and Gethin Jenkins.

Thomas will be the forwards coach, having returned to the Arms Park from the Dragons, while Wales’ most capped player, Jenkins, is taking on the defensive duties as he dips his toe into coaching alongside his playing duties.

“We start training on Monday and we’ve got a friendly pencilled in against the Scarlets on 26 August to get the players ready. We have got a young group of players and they will be joined by some of the senior pros who need some game time,” said Rees, who is currently in South Africa as backs coach with the Wales U18 team.

“We are hoping to use the Celtic Cup in much the same way as the old Anglo-Welsh tournament in helping to bridge the game between semi-pro and pro levels. With seven successive weekends of action it is going to be a very intense period for the players.

“Many of them won’t have been used to coming under the level of scrutiny that they will be exposed to and it will be a sharp learning curve for them. But it will be great exposure for them.

“The competition is going to be very competitive and it will be down to the players to prove their worth.”

The Celtic Cup, featuring development sides from the four Irish Provinces and the four Welsh Regions, has been installed this season to help prepare players, coaches, referees and other performance staff for professional rugby.

The tournament starts in the second weekend of the new season with matches played between Thursday and Saturday.

The first round will see the four regions, who make up the Welsh Conference, go head to head in two derby clashes – Ospreys v Scarlets and Dragons v Blues.

Each team will play seven matches on consecutive weekends, two against domestic opposition and four against the sides in the opposite conference. The two teams at the top of each Conference will then face off in a final.

Welsh Conference: Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets
Irish Conference: Connacht, Leinster, Munster, Ulster

Weekend 1 – Sep 7

Munster v Connacht
Ulster v Leinster
Ospreys v Scarlets
Dragons v Cardiff Blues

Weekend 2 – Sep 14-16
Leinster v Cardiff Blues
Ospreys v Munster
Ulster v Scarlets
Dragons v Connacht

Weekend 3 – Sep 21-23
Scarlets v Leinster
Munster v Dragons
Cardiff Blues v Ulster
Connacht v Ospreys

Weekend 4 – Sep 28-30
Leinster v Ospreys
Cardiff Blues v Munster
Ulster v Dragons
Scarlets v Connacht

Weekend 5 – Oct 5-7
Dragons v Leinster
Munster v Scarlets
Ospreys v Ulster
Connacht v Cardiff Blues

Weekend 6 – Oct 12-14
Leinster v Munster
Connacht v Ulster
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys
Scarlets v Dragons