Glasgow Welcome Celtic League'S New Format

Glasgow Rugby have welcomed the news of the expansion of the Celtic League programme for next season. 'this is what we have been looking for since the competition was introduced two years ago," David Jordan, Glasgow's chief executive, said today.For the first time the competition will be played on a home-and-away basis. With 12 clubs competing, the programme will provide each with 22 league fixtures. In addition, a knock-out tournament is to be introduced. League matches will begin early next season, perhaps in late August, with the final games in May."We now have a guaranteed programme of at least 27 matches," Glasgow's chief executive explained. "We"ll have the 22 in the Celtic League plus at least one in the new knock-out competition, and if the Parker Pen Cup format remains as it was we"ll have at least four European matches."Hugh Campbell, Glasgow's new coach, echoed the chief executive's welcome for the revamping of the competition. "This is definitely a step forward," the coach remarked, "and the new structure will be much more acceptable to the players. For those involved in the World Cup it takes some of the pressure off, and, of course, it gives a window of opportunity for some of the younger players."Next season's new structure was announced today after a meeting of the delegates from the Scottish Rugby Union and their Irish and Welsh colleagues - the three countries who make up the Celtic League. Glasgow and their two Scottish rivals, Edinburgh and The Borders, will compete against the four Irish provinces (Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster) and Welsh rugby's five new regional teams - Bridgend/Pontypridd, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale/Newport, Llanelli, and Neath/Swansea.Irish teams have been the champions in the Celtic League's two years. Leinster won the 2002 final against Munster by 24-20 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Munster, however, went one better this season, beating Neath in the final by 37-17 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.Glasgow went as far as the semi-final stage in the competition's first season, losing out to the eventual league winners, Leinster. This season, however, Glasgow fell at the first knock-out hurdle, losing in the Hughenden quarter-final against Ulster.Bill Watson, the SRU's chief executive, said: "We have sought for some time to see the Celtic League expanded into a season-long competition. The restructuring of the game in Wales has enabled the Celtic countries to achieve our objective. Our competition next season will deliver more meaningful games of rugby, raising the intensity of every game played."The Celtic League was launched in the summer of 2001 with 15 teams. The four Irish and nine Welsh clubs with Glasgow and Edinburgh played in two pools, one of seven and one of eight. The teams played each other only once, and the top four teams from each pool progressed to a knock-out phase. This season the tournament featured 16 contestants with the arrival of a third Scottish team, the Borders. Once again the teams were split into two pools with the top four in each going on to contest a knock-out stage.Glasgow Rugby have welcomed the news of the expansion of the Celtic League programme for next season. 'this is what we have been looking for since the competition was introduced two years ago," David Jordan, Glasgow's chief executive, said today.For the first time the competition will be played on a home-and-away basis. With 12 clubs competing, the programme will provide each with 22 league fixtures. In addition, a knock-out tournament is to be introduced. League matches will begin early next season, perhaps in late August, with the final games in May."We now have a guaranteed programme of at least 27 matches," Glasgow's chief executive explained. "We"ll have the 22 in the Celtic League plus at least one in the new knock-out competition, and if the Parker Pen Cup format remains as it was we"ll have at least four European matches."Hugh Campbell, Glasgow's new coach, echoed the chief executive's welcome for the revamping of the competition. "This is definitely a step forward," the coach remarked, "and the new structure will be much more acceptable to the players. For those involved in the World Cup it takes some of the pressure off, and, of course, it gives a window of opportunity for some of the younger players."Next season's new structure was announced today after a meeting of the delegates from the Scottish Rugby Union and their Irish and Welsh colleagues - the three countries who make up the Celtic League. Glasgow and their two Scottish rivals, Edinburgh and The Borders, will compete against the four Irish provinces (Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster) and Welsh rugby's five new regional teams - Bridgend/Pontypridd, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale/Newport, Llanelli, and Neath/Swansea.Irish teams have been the champions in the Celtic League's two years. Leinster won the 2002 final against Munster by 24-20 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Munster, however, went one better this season, beating Neath in the final by 37-17 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.Glasgow went as far as the semi-final stage in the competition's first season, losing out to the eventual league winners, Leinster. This season, however, Glasgow fell at the first knock-out hurdle, losing in the Hughenden quarter-final against Ulster.Bill Watson, the SRU's chief executive, said: "We have sought for some time to see the Celtic League expanded into a season-long competition. The restructuring of the game in Wales has enabled the Celtic countries to achieve our objective. Our competition next season will deliver more meaningful games of rugby, raising the intensity of every game played."The Celtic League was launched in the summer of 2001 with 15 teams. The four Irish and nine Welsh clubs with Glasgow and Edinburgh played in two pools, one of seven and one of eight. The teams played each other only once, and the top four teams from each pool progressed to a knock-out phase. This season the tournament featured 16 contestants with the arrival of a third Scottish team, the Borders. Once again the teams were split into two pools with the top four in each going on to contest a knock-out stage.