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Celtic Cup (rugby union)

The Celtic Cup was a rugby union cup competition featuring regional and provincial teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales that ran for two seasons between 2003 and 2005. The first edition of the competition was won by Ulster and the second by Munster, both from Ireland, whereafter the competition was retired. A separate competition under the same name was inaugurated in 2018 for Welsh and Irish development sides.

Celtic Cup
SportRugby union
Inaugural season2003-04
Number of teams12 (2003-04), 8 (2004-05)
NationsIreland Ireland
HoldersMunster (2004-05)
Most titlesMunster
Ulster (1 title)
Broadcast partnerBBC
Related competitionCeltic League


Following the introduction of regional rugby union teams in Wales ahead of the 2003/04 season, the format of the Celtic League tournament was changed so that each team would play each other twice, home and away, with the side that accumulated the most points during the season winning the title. This was a change from previous seasons, which culminated in a knock-out format competition leading to a final. In a bid to attract broadcasters, sponsors and the public by having a 'showpiece' final, the Irish, Scottish and Welsh unions agreed to launch a new cup competition, with a knock-out format, the Celtic Cup.[1]

2003/04 seasonEdit

During the inaugural season, the competition was contested by all 12 sides that contested the Celtic League and ran concurrently with the league on four weekends between September and December 2003. The tournament was a knock-out format, played over one leg with the first team drawn in each fixture hosting the match. Due to the number of teams competing, eight teams contested the first round in mid September whilst four teams, Edinburgh, Munster, Ulster and Blues were given byes to the quarter finals to meet the victors from the first round.[2] The victorious teams from the first round were Connacht, Glasgow, Leinster and Scarlets.

The quarter-finals took place on the first weekend of October, with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Connacht winning their games. Ulster and Leinster drew their game 23 points all after extra time, however Ulster progressed under the competition rules as they scored three tires in the match against Leinster's two.[3] The semi-finals took place in mid November and saw both the away teams win, as Ulster beat Glasgow and Edinburgh beat Connacht. The final was held on Saturday December 20 at Murrayfield Stadium and saw Ulster beat Edinburgh 21-27 to win the Celtic Cup.[4]

Preliminary roundQuarter-finalsSemi-finalsFinal
Galway, Ireland, 19 September
  Connacht Rugby26
Llanelli, Wales, 3 October
  Border Reivers21
Llanelli, Wales, 20 September
  Connacht Rugby14
Galway, Ireland, 15 November
  Newport Gwent Dragons6
  Connacht Rugby25
  Edinburgh Rugby26
Edinburgh, Scotland, 3 October
  Edinburgh Rugby33
  Cardiff Blues16
Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland, December 20
  Ulster Rugby27
Bridgend, Wales, 20 September
  Edinburgh Rugby21
  Celtic Warriors9
Glasgow, Scotland, 3 October
  Glasgow Warriors19
  Glasgow Warriors18
  Munster Rugby14
Glasgow, Scotland, 15 November
  Glasgow Warriors13
Dublin, Ireland, 20 September
  Ulster Rugby20
  Leinster Rugby35
Belfast, Northern Ireland, 3 October
  Ulster Rugby23 (3t)
  Leinster Rugby23 (2t)

2004/05 seasonEdit

The format of the competition was changed for the second edition of the competition. The competition was moved to April and May to run after the conclusion of the Celtic League competition, with only eight sides contesting the competition, again in a straight knockout format, however starting at the quarter-final stage due to the reduction in teams. The quarter-final fixtures were created based on the teams' finishing positions in the Celtic League, with the league winners Ospreys hosting the eighth placed side Ulster, second placed Munster hosting seventh placed Edinburgh, third placed Leinster hosting sixth placed Glasgow and fourth placed Dragons hosting fifth placed Scarlets. In this way, the tournament was similar to a playoff system, although the Celtic League and Celtic Cup remained trophies in their own right.

The automatic home advantage for the highest placed teams was not continued for the semi-finals, instead the fixtures were decided by a draw.[5] Leinster lost to Munster and Scarlets won at home against the Ospreys. The final took place on May 14 at Lansdowne Road and saw Munster beat the Scarlets by 27 points to 16 to win the second Celtic Cup.[6]

Quarter finalsSemi finalsFinal
Dublin, Ireland, 22 April
  Leinster Rugby33
Dublin, Ireland, 29 April
  Glasgow Warriors24
  Leinster Rugby17
Limerick, Ireland, 22 April
  Munster Rugby23
  Munster Rugby24
Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland, 6 May
  Edinburgh Rugby14
  Munster Rugby27
Newport, Wales, 22 April
  Newport Gwent Dragons19
Llanelli, Wales, 29 April
Swansea, Wales, 22 April
  Ulster Rugby16


Following the end of the 2004/05 season, the Welsh regions signed a deal to join the English Guinness Premiership club sides in an Anglo-Welsh Cup competition from the 2005/06 season. With clashing fixtures in the two competitions, the fallout led to the Irish and Scottish sides withdrawing from Celtic competition at the end of May.[7] Talks between the three countries in June led to an agreement to reinstate the Celtic League, but not the Celtic Cup.[8]

For the 2009–10 season, the Celtic League adopted a playoff format similar to that used for the 2004/05 Celtic Cup, with the top four placed teams in the league at the end of the season rather than eight. However the Cup moniker was not revived and the winners of the playoffs were instead crowned the overall Celtic League champions.

Finals resultsEdit


20 December 2003
14:30 GMT
Edinburgh   21 – 27   Ulster
Try: Webster
Con: Paterson (3/3)
Report Try: Best
Con: Humphreys (1/2)
Pen: Humphreys (5)
Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Attendance: 17,174
Referee: Nigel Williams (Wales)


14 May 2005
17:30 IST
Munster   27 – 16   Scarlets
Try: Horgan
Con: O'Gara (3/3)
Pen: O'Gara
Drop: O'Gara
Report Try: Phillips
Con: Thomas (1/1)
Pen: Thomas (3)
Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Attendance: 11,500
Referee: Joel Jutge (France)


  1. ^ "New Celtic League format agreed".
  2. ^ "Celtic rugby's brave new world".
  3. ^ "Ulster earn countback win".
  4. ^ "Ulster hold on for victory".
  5. ^ "Cup draw disappoints the Ospreys".
  6. ^ "Munster 27-16 Scarlets".
  7. ^ "Celtic League season cancelled".
  8. ^ "Welsh back in the Celtic fold". 2005-06-20.