Current season or competition:
|Number of teams||12|
Leinster (4 titles)
Ospreys (4 titles)
The Pro12 (known as the Guinness Pro12 for sponsorship reasons, (formerly known as the Celtic League, Magners League and RaboDirect Pro 12) is an annual rugby union competition involving twelve professional sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The league is one of the three major professional leagues in Europe (along with the English Premiership and the French Top 14) the most successful teams from which go forward to compete in the European Rugby Champions Cup, the pan European championship which replaced the Heineken Cup after the 2013–14 season.
Beginning in the 2001–02 season, the league was originally known as the Celtic League (Irish: An tSraith Cheilteach; Italian: La Lega Celtica; Scots Gaelic: An Lìog Cheilteach; Welsh: Y Gynghrair Geltaidd) and comprised teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The league was sponsored by Irish cider makers Magners from the 2006–07 season until 2010–11. At the start of the 2010–11 season, the league expanded from ten to twelve teams, adding two Italian teams and following the end of Magners sponsorship the league was sponsored by RaboDirect from 2011–12 through to 2013–14. The "Pro12" was adopted to reflect that it now includes teams from outside the Celtic nations. The current sponsorship deal with Guinness commenced at the beginning of the 2014–15 season.
The league has used a play-off structure since the 2009–10 season to determine the champions, similar to that used in the English Premiership. Until the 2008–09 season, the champions was determined from league performance.
- Tournament format 1
- Corporate organisation 2
Media coverage 3
- Broadcast coverage history 3.1
- Italian participation since 2010–11 4.1
- Former Welsh teams 4.2
- Defunct teams 4.3
- Other nations 4.4
- Current standings 5
- 2001–02 6.1
- 2002–03 6.2
- 2003–04 6.3
- 2004–05 6.4
- 2005–06 6.5
- 2006–07 6.6
- 2007–08 6.7
- 2008–09 6.8
- 2009–10 6.9
- 2010–11 6.10
- 2011–12 6.11
- 2012–13 6.12
- 2013-14 6.13
By year 7.1
- League 7.1.1
- Celtic Cup 7.1.2
- By championship wins 7.2
- By country 7.3
- By year 7.1
- Player of the year 8
- Player statistics 9
- Attendance 10
- See also 11
- References 12
- External links 13
The league season takes place between September and May, with each team playing every other team on a home and away basis. League matches traditionally avoided the international weekends in November and during the Six Nations Championship, however there has been some overlap since the 2010–11 season due to the increased number of games.
League points are awarded using the Rugby union bonus points system. Until and including the 2008–09 season, the champions were decided solely on the basis of who led the final league table, but since the 2009–10 season, the league champion has been decided by a play-off series, in line with other rugby club competitions such as Super Rugby, Top 14, and the English Premiership: at the conclusion of the regular season, the top four placed teams enter the semi-final stage, with the winner of the first vs fourth and second vs third play-offs entering the Final (known as the "Grand Final" in 2010 and 2011). The venue for the Final is chosen by the highest placed team in the regular season.
Two Italian teams – the ex-National Championship of Excellence team Benetton Rugby Treviso, and a new team, Aironi – joined the league starting with the 2010–11 season, Aironi being replaced by Zebre from the 2012-13 season. Through the 2012–13 season, the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Italian rugby unions used the league as the sole determinant for Heineken Cup qualification, and from 2013–14 they use it as the sole means of qualification for the successor to the Heineken Cup, the European Rugby Champions Cup.
The legal name of the body running the competition is Celtic Rugby Limited, an Irish
- Official site
- "Guinness Confirmed as pro12 sponsor". The Score. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- "Y Gynghrair Geltaidd". BBC Chwaraeon (in Welsh). British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 September 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- "BBC Sport - Magners to end six-year Celtic League backing". BBC News. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Celtic League to be called PRO 12 as new sponsor unveiled".
- "Magners set to bring in play-offs". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 11 April 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- "Celtic Rugby set for new heights". magnersleague.com. Celtic Rugby. 25 August 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
- "RTÉ secures Magners League rights – RTÉ Sport". Rte.ie. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Our Sports".
- Set to Launch March 1 with DirecTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FIOS"Plus"Fox Soccer (Press release). Fox Cable Networks. 26 February 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- "New broadcast partner for RaboDirect Pro12". Sportspromedia.com. 30 June 2012.
- Clutton, Graham (9 June 2010). "Celtic Rugby secure improved broadcast deal for Magners League coverage". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- "RaboDirect Pro12 games to be shown on Sky Sports from 2014". Sky Sports (www.skysports.com). 2 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Treviso in Celtic League Praetorians Roma bocciati". repubblica.it. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- "Italians may join Magners League". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 5 December 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
- "Italy confirm Magners League move". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 19 December 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
- "Italians pick Celtic League teams". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 18 July 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
- "Il Veneto in Celtic League, Roma fuori" (in Italian). Rugby Veneto. 2 September 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
- "COMUNICATO STAMPA FIR SULLA CELTIC LEAGUE" (in Italian). FIR. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
- Irish Times
- "Italians will not join Magners League". The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- Fanning, Brendan (7 February 2010). "Italians up offer to join Magners party". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- "Italians added to Magners League". Irishtimes.com. 8 March 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Italian side Aironi to pull out of Pro12 after their licence is revoked". BBC Sport. 6 April 2012.
- "Zebras join RaboDirect herd".
- Kirkup, Jonny (5 February 2008). "Italian Celts – Non Starter". WalesOnline. Media Wales. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- Glover, Tim (17 December 2006). "How Italy became Europe's fall guys". The Independent on Sunday (London: Independent News and Media). Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- "Rugby Union: Major Organisations". Talkrugbyunion.co.uk. Fubra. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- Smith, Wayne (17 February 2009). "South Africa threatens to quit Super 14". The Australian. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
- "Celtic nations in new Rainbow Cup". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 10 May 2005. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- "SA Rugby denies Magners League link" (Press release).
- "London Welsh keen on Celtic move". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 21 December 2006. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- Competition Rule 3.5 "Summary of Key Rules". Pro12. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- "Future of European Rugby resolved" (Press release).
- "Leinster win Irish battle". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 15 December 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- "Munster seize Celtic crown". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 1 February 2003. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- "Scarlets 23–16 Ulster". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 14 May 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- "Ospreys 29–12 Edinburgh". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 26 March 2005. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- "Ospreys 17–19 Ulster". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 26 May 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- Hurst, Greg (20 July 2006). "Magners ends drought by sponsoring Celtic League". The Times (London: Times Newspapers). Retrieved 23 April 2007.
- "Edinburgh hit out at Borders loss". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 27 March 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2007.
- "Border Reivers 16–24 Ospreys". BBC Sport (British Broadcasting Corporation). 12 May 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
- "Warriors look to create fortress at Firhill". magnersleague.com (Celtic Rugby). 12 June 2007. Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
- "Six of the Best As Leinster Secure Magners League Title". magnersleague.com (Celtic Rugby). 3 May 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
- Magners set to bring in play-offs BBC Sport, 11 April 2008
- "Leinster 16–6 Munster: As it happened – RTÉ Sport 2011". Rte.ie. 15 May 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Byrne makes Leinster pay price for sloppy showing – Independent.ie
- "Rugby Union Tournaments | RaboDirect PRO12 | Tables". Planet Rugby. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Munster hammered by Ospreys". The Irish Times. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/sport/2012/0514/1224316064297.html .(subscription required)
- "Williams try sets up last-gasp, one-point Ospreys win over Leinster". Irish Examiner. 27 May 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Tournaments | RaboDirect PRO12 | Aironi". Planet Rugby. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Tournaments | RaboDirect PRO12 | Aironi". Planet Rugby. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Ins & outs at the Welsh regions".
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2001–02". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2002–03". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2003–04". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2004–05". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2005–06". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2006–07". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "Leinster win The Last Stand at Lansdowne". breakingnews.ie. 31 December 2006. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2007–08". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2008–09". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2009–10". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2010–11". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "Leinster overcome Munster in front of record crowd". RaboDirect PRO12. 10 October 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2011–12". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2012–13". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- "RaboDirect PRO12 Fixtures & Results 2013–14". RaboDirect PRO12. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
- European Professional Club Rugby
- European Rugby Champions Cup
- European Rugby Challenge Cup
- Heineken Cup
- European Challenge Cup
- Anglo-Welsh Cup
- British and Irish Cup
- Welsh Premier Division
- Sports league attendances
|2001–02||252,213||4,504||30,000 (Leinster v Munster, Final, 15 December 2001)[n 1]|
|2002–03||308,374||4,895||30,076 (Munster v Neath, Final, 1 February 2003)[n 2]|
|2003–04||501,875||3,802||12,000 (Ulster v Leinster, Round 21, 7 May 2004)[n 3]|
|2004–05||470,446||4,277||10,500 (Dragons v Cardiff Blues, Round 13, 27 December 2004)|
|2005–06||571,331||5,194||15,327 (Cardiff Blues v Leinster, Round 16, 14 May 2006)|
|2006–07||661,163||6,011||48,000 (Leinster v Ulster, Round 12, 31 December 2006)[n 4]|
|2007–08||609,015||6,767||18,500 (Leinster v Munster, Round 15, 12 April 2008)|
|2008–09||731,328||8,126||26,043 (Munster v Leinster, Connacht and Ospreys in Rounds 15, 16 and 18)|
|2009–10||818,181||8,798||25,623 (Munster v Leinster, Round 15, 2 April 2010)|
|2010–11||1,019,634||7,553||50,645 (Leinster v Munster, Round 5, 2 October 2010)[n 5][n 6]|
|2011–12||1,042,374||7,721||48,365 (Leinster v Munster, Round 8, 4 November 2011)|
|2012–13||1,106,873||8,199||46,280 (Leinster v Munster, Round 6, 6 October 2012)|
|2013–14||1,107,707||8,205||51,700 (Leinster v Munster, Round 18, 29 March 2014)[n 7]|
- Most tries: 14 (Tim Visser, Edinburgh, 2010–11)
- Most points: 276 (Felipe Contepomi, Leinster, 2005–06)
- Most successful kicks: 99 (Neil Jenkins, Celtic Warriors)
- Most appearances: 23 (Richard Fussell, Ospreys, 2010–11)
- Most tries: 56 (Tommy Bowe, Ulster (38), Ospreys (18)), 51 (Tim Visser, Edinburgh)
- Most points: 1,582 (Dan Parks, Glasgow (1105), Cardiff Blues (236) and Connacht (241))
- Most successful kicks: 397 (Dan Parks, Glasgow, Cardiff Blues and Connacht)
- Most appearances: 132 (Mick O'Driscoll, Munster)
- 2009–10: Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
- 2010–11: Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
- 2011–12: Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
- 2012–13: Nick Williams (Ulster)
- 2013–14: Dan Biggar (Ospreys)
Player of the year
|Ireland||8||Leinster (4), Munster (3), Ulster (1)||8||Leinster (4), Munster (2), Ulster (2)|
|Wales||5||Ospreys (4), Scarlets (1)||3||Cardiff Blues (2), Neath (1)|
|Scotland||0||2||Edinburgh (1), Glasgow Warriors (1)|
|Leinster||4||2001–02, 2007–08, 2012–13, 2013–14||4||2005–06, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12|
|Ospreys||4||2004–05, 2006–07, 2009–10, 2011–12||0|
|Munster||3||2002–03, 2008–09, 2010–11||2||2001–02, 2004–05|
|Cardiff Blues||0||2||2006–07, 2007–08|
By championship wins
In the end Leinster topped the table, having led for most of the season. Glasgow had a late surge to finish 2nd overtaking Munster and Ulster in the process. All 4 teams showed they were worthy contenders in the next round with Leinster needing to score late to beat Ulster 13-9 in Dublin while Glasgow just got past Munster in Scotstoun by one point to win 16-15. The final in the R.D.S. was also a close game for most of the match with Leinster forced to defend for long periods. However they eventually pulled clear, adding two late scores which made the final result look somewhat lopsided at 34-12.
Rabo Direct announced that this was to be their last season as sponsors. This, combined with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the future of the European Cup, meant that there were concerns over the future commercial viability of the tournament. However despite all off-field issues it was a successful season with a new high for both total attendance and for a single game (51,700 for Leinster v Munster).
Ulster topped the table in the regular season, with Leinster, Glasgow and Scarlets completing the top 4 in that order. They then went on to comfortably beat Scarlets 28-17 in Belfast, while Leinster were hard pressed by Glasgow in a tense 17-15 win for the hosts. In the final (held in the R.D.S. due to redevelopment of Ravenhill) Leinster prevailed 24-18 to win their 3rd title.
With the demise of Aironi they were replaced with a new FIR controlled team to be based in Parma called Zebre, near the Aironi base in Viadana. The Welsh clubs chose to operate under a new self-imposed salary cap, which led to a number of departures from the Welsh teams as they strove to balance their books. Some high-profile Welsh players moved to the French Top 14, but other Pro12 teams also benefited with the likes of Casey Laulala going to Munster from Cardiff Blues, Sean Lamont to Glasgow from Scarlets, Dan Parks from Cardiff Blues to Connacht and Tommy Bowe from Ospreys back to Ulster.
The 2011–12 season saw a re-branding of the competition as the Rabo Direct Pro12. Leinster were the runaway winners of the regular season, with a 10-point cushion over the Ospreys in second. The top four were Leinster, Ospreys, Munster and Warriors in that order. Ospreys easily overcame Munster at home in the first Semi-final in Swansea  while Leinster beat the Glasgow Warriors in the RDS after giving up a strong lead. In the final, also held at the RDS, Leinster were aiming to become the first Celtic League team to complete a domestic and European double, after beating Ulster the previous week in the Heineken Cup final. After trailing for most of the game, Ospreys took a late lead through a try by Shane Williams. Dan Biggar then landed a difficult conversion to give Ospreys their fourth title by a single point, 31-30.
The two home sides went on to win their respective matches and the final was held in Thomond Park, home of Munster rugby, where they defeated Leinster (who had just been crowned champions of Europe a week earlier).
The 2010–11 saw the introduction of the two Italian sides, Aironi and Benetton Treviso. In the new 12 team format, the play-offs came down to Munster hosting the Ospreys in one semi-final, and Leinster hosting Ulster in the other.
The four qualifiers for the play-offs were Leinster, Ospreys, Glasgow and Munster in that order, each country having at least one team. In the semi-finals Leinster defeated Munster at the RDS, after Ospreys overcame Glasgow in Swansea. In the Grand Final at the RDS in Dublin the Ospreys shocked Leinster, winning the title with their first win in Dublin in five years.
The 2009–10 season was the last 10-team league as the Italian teams joined in 2010–11. The league was one of the most competitive in years with perennial wooden-spooners Connacht challenging Ulster all the way for the 3rd Irish Heineken Cup spot. Ulster needed a superb away bonus point win at Edinburgh to seal it, ending Edinburgh's own play-off hopes. Scarlets had a disappointing campaign as typical Welsh underdogs the Dragons had a great season, eventually finishing mid table and comfortably qualifying for the Heineken Cup. Luckily for the Scarlets, Cardiff Blues won the Amlin Cup and thereby earned Wales an extra Heineken Cup place. 2009–10 was also the first time a play-off was used to decide the champion, previously the top team at the end of the season was champion. The Scottish teams and particularly Glasgow came of age and had a fine season, finishing 3rd in the end.
The 2008–09 season was decided quite early in the season as Munster claimed the title without playing, as they were preparing for their Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster. The final challenge from Ospreys was snuffed out when the Dragons denied them a bonus point win on 30 April. Munster had led pretty much from the start of the season with a team largely captained by Mick O'Driscoll showing Munster's squad depth. Munster lost only four games, three to the other Irish teams, including a double loss to Ulster. Felipe Contepomi finish as league top scorer for Leinster, the year they went on to win the Heineken Cup.
In April 2008 it was announced that the Celtic League was to introduce a play-off system commencing in the 2009–10 season to determine the winner, thus generating a greater climax to the season and bringing it in line with other major leagues such as the English Premiership and French Top 14.
Only ten teams competed in the 2007–08 season, after the Borders were disbanded at the end of the 2006–07 season. Glasgow Warriors moved their home games to Firhill. After missing out on the title on the last day for the previous two seasons, Leinster finally won the 2007–08 title with one game remaining. They had been runaway leaders for much of the season.
The league was won by the Ospreys on the final day of fixtures. The Blues' home win over Leinster allowed the Ospreys to top the league by a single point and take the title with an away win at Borders.
The league's record attendance was smashed in this season with a full house at Lansdowne Road (48,000) for Leinster v Ulster. This was the last game in the stadium prior to its demolition, and was billed as "The Last Stand".
In May 2006, Magners Irish Cider were named as the competition sponsors for the next five seasons, and the league was renamed as the Magners League. Although known as Bulmers Irish Cider in the Republic of Ireland, the Magners brand name was used there for the league. The sponsorship followed on from Magners' previous sponsorship deals with Edinburgh and the London Wasps.
The league went down to the last round with Ulster and Leinster both in contention. Following Leinster's victory over Edinburgh and with Ulster losing against the Ospreys, it looked like the cup would go to Dublin but David Humphreys kicked a last minute 40-metre drop goal to clinch the game and the league for Ulster.
Despite these problems, the league enjoyed its most successful season, with the record attendance at a Celtic League match being broken four times from 12,436 at the Cardiff Blues v Newport Gwent Dragons match in December to 15,327 for the Cardiff Blues v Leinster match at the Millennium Stadium. The total attendances for the season were up nearly 50,000 at 571,331 compared to 521,449 for the previous season.
In 2005, there were discussions over a potential Anglo-Welsh cup competition which some saw as undermining the Celtic League. Despite Welsh assurances that the proposed Anglo-Welsh tournament would not interfere with their commitments to either the Celtic League in its present format or an expanded 'Rainbow League', the WRU made arrangements to play games on five weekends that clashed with Celtic League fixtures. The SRU and IRFU then threatened to expel the Welsh sides from the Celtic League in June 2005. It was proposed that the competition would continue as a Scottish and Irish affair for the 2005–06 season, with the possible addition of four Italian sides and the re-admittance of Welsh sides for the 2006–07 season. However a deal was reached that allowed for the Celtic League to continue with the Anglo-Welsh cup fixtures involving Welsh clubs re-scheduled.
It was suggested that Italian sides might join an expanded Celtic League – whilst this proved to be merely a publicity "bubble" at the time, it would eventually materialise in 2010.
The IRFU also insisted on International squad training sessions taking precedence over Celtic League matches. A consequence of this was that Irish provinces (especially Munster and Leinster) occasionally fielded virtual second teams for Celtic League games. Some claimed this had the effect of devaluing the competition. However, despite this alleged half-hearted approach, Munster finished second and Leinster third with Munster going on to win the Celtic Cup. The Ospreys topped the league table, making it two in a row for Welsh regional sides.
The 2004–05 season was the first season that Ireland agreed to use the Celtic League standings to determine which provinces would enter the Heineken Cup. The IRFU had previously classed Connacht as a "development" team and so nominated Leinster, Munster and Ulster over Connacht – fearing the loss of revenue from one of the "big three" teams failing to qualify for the Heineken European Cup.
However, even the prospect of the improved league structure wasn't enough to keep all the competitors viable, with the liquidation of the Celtic Warriors region by the WRU, which meant that starting in 2004–05, Wales would have only four entrants in a league of eleven teams. The new format took the league into what many saw as a make-or-break season, clear of massive distractions such as the Rugby World Cup. With the Welsh regions partly embedded, the signs were that the Celtic League would be a competition that could continue.
The league format was further refined at the end of the 2003–04 season, with the participants deciding to better manage the dates of the matches so as to not interfere with the national squad set-ups and to make the league more commercially viable. The league was played until April, and then the Celtic Cup was contested amongst the top eight teams of the league.
However the unfortunate timing of the league's launch and poor organisation of a working calendar meant that first the 2003 Rugby World Cup and later the Six Nations Championship prevented many of the league's top stars from playing in over half the games. This caused the league to struggle commercially, especially regarding the newly adopted regions in Wales where the game has always traditionally been played on a club basis, not having the regional histories of Ireland or Scotland. The season ended with the Llanelli Scarlets running out as eventual winners, four points ahead of Ulster.
Reformatted into a traditional league competition (double round-robin style, all clubs play each other twice, once home, once away), which meant that a season long 22-round match program was launched, and with a new strength in depth due to the amalgamation of Welsh teams and the continuing strengthening of Irish and Scottish teams through the re-signing and retention of star players, the league has been in rugby terms a success. Also introduced for the 2003–04 season was the Celtic Cup, a straight knock-out cup competition between the 12 Celtic League teams.
A major change in Celtic League philosophy came during the early part of 2003, partly due to the commercial success of the league itself but mostly because of the Welsh Regional Rugby's financial constraints that left Wales with only five fully professional clubs. It was decided that the Celtic League would become the sole professional league of the three countries, incorporating all four Irish, three Scottish and the five new Welsh (Cardiff Blues, Celtic Warriors, Llanelli Scarlets, Neath-Swansea Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons).
Surprisingly, the champions Leinster failed to make the quarter-final stage in 2003. In their absence, Munster went on to easily win the competition by beating Connacht (QF 33–3), Ulster (SF 42–10), and Neath in the final 37–17. The final of 2003 was played in Cardiff.
The format of the league remained the same for the second season, except for the addition of a third Scottish side, the newly re-established Scottish Borders.
The demands of the Celtic League led to the Scottish/Welsh league being abandoned in 2002. The Irish inter-provincial championship was also downgraded.
The 2001–02 competition was dominated by the Irish teams with all four sides reaching the last eight, three progressing to the semi-finals, and the thrilling final played at Lansdowne Road contested between Leinster and Munster with Leinster running out 24–20 winners.
Played alongside each country's own national competitions, the teams were split into two groups (of eight and seven) and played a series of round-robin matches with each team playing the other only once. The top four teams from each group proceeded into the knock-out phase until a champion was found. Clashes between teams in the Welsh-Scottish League also counted towards the new competition.
The first season would see fifteen teams compete: the four Irish provinces (Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster), two Scottish teams (Edinburgh Reivers and Glasgow) and all nine Welsh Premier Division teams (Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Ebbw Vale, Llanelli, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea).
Some saw the competition as the forerunner of a British/Irish league with teams from England also taking part. The WRU had previously negotiated with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to form an Anglo-Welsh league but negotiations had broken down over how many teams from each union would take part.
In 2001, an agreement was made between the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to create a new competition which would bring in the four Irish provinces. 2001 would see the very first incarnation of the Celtic League.
|Team||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points For||Points Against||Points Difference||Tries For||Tries Against||Try Bonus||Losing Bonus||Points|
|11||Newport Gwent Dragons||9||1||0||8||128||211||−83||8||23||1||3||8|
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
Green background (rows 1 to 4) are play-off places, and earn a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
In February 2009, rumours spread that South Africa was negotiating entry of its current Super Rugby teams into the Celtic League, to take effect when the current media contract between SANZAR and News Corporation expires after the 2010 season, although these rumours were immediately denied by SA Rugby, the commercial arm of SARU.
As well as the successful negotiations with Italy, talks have been held intermittently with South Africa about the possible expansion of the RaboDirect Pro12. A Rainbow Cup involving South African and Italian teams was announced in 2005, but because of financial issues on the European end of the deal and changes in the leadership of the South African Rugby Union (SARU), the idea was abandoned.
Various professional rugby clubs of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna
|Stadio Luigi Zaffanella (6,000)|
South of Scotland (Scottish Borders plus Dumfries and Galloway)
Bridgend and Pontypridd
Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil
Brewery Field (12,000)
Sardis Road (8,000)
|Bridgend||2001–03||Bridgend, Wales||Brewery Field (6,000)|
|Caerphilly||2001–03||Caerphilly, Wales||Virginia Park (5,000)|
|Cardiff||2001–03||Cardiff, Wales||Cardiff Arms Park (12,500)|
|Ebbw Vale||2001–03||Ebbw Vale, Wales||Eugene Cross Park (8,000)|
|Llanelli||2001–03||Llanelli, Wales||Stradey Park (10,800)|
|Neath||2001–03||Neath, Wales||The Gnoll (6,000)|
|Newport||2001–03||Newport, Wales||Rodney Parade (11,676)|
|Pontypridd||2001–03||Pontypridd, Wales||Sardis Road (7,861)|
|Swansea||2001–03||Swansea, Wales||St Helen's (4,500)|
Former Welsh teams
At the end of the 2011–12 season however, Aironi were no longer be available to compete in future competitions as a regional club, as, on 6 April 2012, they were refused a licence to continue on financial grounds. They were replaced by another Italian side, Zebre.
On 28 January 2010, the FIR declared that they had withdrawn from all negotiations with the board of the Celtic League regarding two Italian teams joining the 2010–11 tournament, with the main issue being a €3 million warranty asked for by the board of the league. However, by 7 February, the Italian clubs had come up with the required funding.
On 2 October 2009, the FIR proposed Benetton Treviso in place of Praetorians Roma.
On 18 July 2009, the FIR announced that Aironi and Praetorians Roma would compete in the Celtic League from the start of the 2010–11 season – beating bids from Benetton Rugby Treviso and Duchi Nord-Ovest. Praetorians would be based in Rome and would play at the city's Stadio Flaminio, while Aironi will be based in Viadana but would play some matches in the city of Reggio Emilia.
In November 2008, the Celtic League board met to explore the possibility of Italian participation, and on 5 December, the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, stated that the league was looking "favourably" on Italian participation. Following a 19 December 2008 board meeting of the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) to discuss proposals to improve the standard of Italian rugby, FIR announced that it would submit a proposal to join the Celtic League. FIR had two possibilities on the table – either entering four existing Italian clubs from the National Championship of Excellence into the league; or creating two teams, composed solely of Italy-qualified players, exclusively for the competition.
Italian participation since 2010–11
The league is based on regionalised/provincial representation of the participating nations, except for Benetton Treviso which represents the city of Treviso itself. Benetton Treviso was selected for its long history after the project of a second Italian regional team, Praetorians Roma, failed.
On 2 May 2013, Sky Sports announced that it had agreed a four year deal to broadcast thirty-three live RaboDirect PRO12 matches each season. This deal is due to commence at the start of season 2014–15, and will run alongside the continued regional screening of matches.
From 2004 to 2009, the Scottish and Irish rights were owned by Setanta Sports. Setanta closed down in Scotland in 2009, but Setanta Ireland and Setanta Sports 1 remained available to Irish subscribers. In 2010, RTÉ Sport, BBC Northern Ireland, TG4, BBC Wales, BBC Alba and SKY Italia came together to buy the Celtic League broadcasting rights.
- Setanta Sports (Live 2004–10 Highlights 2010–)
- STV (Live 2009–10 Highlights 2010–2013)
- RTÉ Sport (2010–2014)
- SKY Italia (2003)
- Dahlia TV (2010–11)
- RAI Sport (2011–12)
- Sportitalia (2012–13)
- Italia 2 (Mediaset) (2013-14)
- BBC Wales (2001– present),
- BBC Northern Ireland (2001–2004; 2010–present)
- BBC Alba (2010–present)
- BBC Scotland (2001–04; 2014–present)
- Sky Sports (2014–present)
- beIN Sports (2014–present)
- Nuvolari (2014–present)
Broadcast coverage history
Sporadic coverage of the tournament can be found in other territories – on beIN Sports in France, and on various Setanta Sports channels around the globe (including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South East Asia and the Middle East). The United States rights are held by beIN Sports, and were formerly held by Setanta and News Corporation's Fox Soccer Plus.
Setanta Sports previously held the live rights for Ireland and Scotland, along with a large number of international territories. STV took over the broadcast rights in Scotland after Setanta closed in the UK in 2009 and still cover the league in a weekly highlights programme. Despite no longer having the live rights, Setanta Ireland continued to show Pro12 games on a tape-delayed and highlights basis during the 2010–11 season.
Commencing from the 2014–15 season, Sky Sports became one of the league's broadcast partners, broadcasting thirty-three live games on a Saturday and also showing both the semi-finals and the final live.
Since the 2010–11 season, the League has been broadcast live on BBC Two Wales, BBC Two Northern Ireland, RTE, the Irish language channel TG4, the Scottish Gaelic channel BBC Alba, the Welsh channel S4C. The BBC Two Wales matches are usually made available to the rest of the United Kingdom via BBC Red Button. Complete match replays are also available on the BBC iPlayer. Each broadcaster provides feed to the others for matches in their home territory. While this means that the league is now available free to air in the UK and Ireland, in Italy it was only available on a subscription basis in its first year. However, from the 2014-15 season, Italy's Nuvolari began broadcasting the games involving the two Italian clubs live on its digital free-to-view channel. Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh matches are also broadcast live on BBC Radio Scotland.