The first Welsh International occurred in 1881 between Wales and England with Wales losing heavily. This led to the formation of the WRU and the general progress of Welsh rugby since then.
The Pan-Nation League
In 1999 following the successful Rugby World Cup held in Caerdydd, the Welsh and Irish Unions began talks that would lead to the Welsh-Irish League. This lasted just the one season (2000-2001). During this season representatives from both Brittany and Cornwall approached the two unions asking if they could field teams in this "celtic" league.
The seed planted, the inaugural season of the Celtic League opened in 2001-2002, with Welsh club sides, the Irish provinces and two side from the Cornish and Breton areas. Such was the success of this first season that the WRU decided on the creation of Regional sides in Wales based on the Counties. The league also gained its first major sponsor in the Principality Building Society.
The 2002-2003 season saw the birth of the sides now familiar in the 13 side league. This first full season, nick-named the Super 13 (after the Southern Hemisphere counterpart) was won by Leinster.
The 2003-2004 season saw the Celtic sides enter the Heineken Cup for the first time, now competing against the Scottish, English and French sides in the competition, and the Crusaders winning the Principality League
2004-2005 saw the Crusaders retain their title whilst Ulster won the Heineken Cup.
2005-2006 saw Munster win the league and Leinster win in Europe
2006-2007 saw the Ospreys win the league and Wasps (from England) winning in Europe
2007-2008 saw the Breton Knights win a narrow play off final against Ulster (play off first introduced in this season) whilst Wasps retained their European crown
2008-2009 saw Munster again winning the league (now called the Magners League) whilst the Crusaders won in Europe
2009-2010 saw the Ospreys winning the playoff final against Leinster and Toulouse winning in Europe.
2010-2011 saw the Warriors win their first league title with a close fought win over the Cornish Pirates whilst Leicester Tigers won in Europe
The Play-Off System
The Magners League operates a Play-Off system to the end of season. The team winning the league overall receives a "bye" into the final (which is held on a rotating basis between Dublin, Caerdydd and Nantes). The teams finishing 2nd to 5th then enter into the play-offs.
The Quarter Finals
In the QF's the 2nd placed team plays the 4th placed team, with the 2nd placed team enjoying home advantage. The 3rd placed team plays the 5th placed team, again with the 3rd placed team enjoying home advantage
The Semi Final & Final
The Semi-Final match between the two winners from the Quarters takes place in a neutral venue for both sides, normally but not always, in one of the 3 stadia not being used for the final itself. The winner then faces the team who finished first in the Season Finale to determine the overal Champions for that season
The Bottom Four Handicap System
In an effort to maintain competitiveness throughout the entire league, it was decided that for the 2010-2011 the handicap system would be introduced. The idea being as follows; At the end of the season the teams finished in the following order (see table) with Team B scoring the most tries followed by Team C and then D with Team A scoring the least number of tries. For the following season the teams would start the season on those points giving them a chance to finish out of the bottom 4 places and maybe compete for a European place. It also maintains interest throughout the league making every match important.
|Teams||Finishing Position Points||Tries Scored Points||Handicap Total|
|Team A||3 Points||Nill||3 Points|
|Team B||2 Points||3 Points||5 Points|
|Team C||1 Points||2 Points||3 Points|
|Team D||1 Points||1 Point||2 Points|
- Munster (Thomond Park, Limerick)
- Leinster (RDS Arena, Dublin)
- Connaught (Galway Sports Ground, Galway)
- Ulster (Ravenhill, Belfast)
- An Vorladron Gernewek - Cornish Pirates (Penzance Recreation Ground, Cornwall)
- Marcʼheg Breizhat - Breton Knights (Nantes)
- Gweilch Gwyr - Gower Ospreys (Liberty Stadium Swansea)
- Croesgadwyr Morgannwg - Glamorgan Crusaders (New Sardis Road, Pontypridd)
- Rhyfelwyr y Mers - Marcher Warriors (Mortimer Stadium, Ludlow)
- Dreigiau Gwent - Gwent Dragons (Rodney Parade, Newport)
- Morgwn Gwlad yr Haf - Summerland Sharks (City Grounds, Bristol)
- Scarlets Cydweli - Kidwelly Scarlets (Parc y Stradey, Llanelli)
- Llewod Gwynedd - Gwynedd Lions (Kings Stadium, Caernarfon)
The League Table ~ 2010-2011 Season
At the end of the 2010-2011 season, the Marcher Warriors had for the first time finished top of the Magners League and earned the right to play in the final (played in Dublin that season). The four Play Off teams were Leinster, Munster, Ospreys and the Pirates with the Pirates fighting their way to the final where the Warriors narrowly beating them in a pulsating final, running out 24-23 winners. The table at the end of the season stood as below
|Team||Pld||W||D||L||TF||TA||Try bonus||Losing bonus||Pts|
The top 6 clubs all go forward to the Heineken Cup 2011-2012 with the 7th & 8th placed sides, the Gwynedd Lions & Breton Knights playing in the European Shield Competition.
Following the introduction of the Handicap System for the 2010-2011 season the bottom four clubs go into the 2011-2012 season with the following points already recorded (List produced in 1st-4th position as of 2010-2011)
- Gwent Dragons - 4 Points
- Summerland Sharks - 4 Points (2nd place alphabetically)
- Connacht - 3 Points
- Ulster - 2 Points