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Celtic Warriors




The Celtic Warriors were a regional rugby union team from Wales, playing in the Celtic League and European Rugby Cup/European Rugby Shield.

The Warriors were one of the five original regions of the Welsh Regional Rugby Era. The club came into being in the summer of 2003 when the WRU controversially elected to reduce the current top tier of Welsh Professional Rugby from nine clubs into five regions, attempting to mirror the successful formats in Ireland and the Southern Hemisphere countries of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Officially representing the Mid-Glamorgan Valleys area, including Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Bridgend, and south Powys, the Celtic Warriors was in practice a combination of the Pontypridd RFC and Bridgend RFC Welsh Premier League Clubs. With Bridgend RFC having clinched the 2002/2003 Welsh Premier League title and Pontypridd RFC being consistently strong in that competitions, the Warriors were considered one of the strongest line-ups out of the Welsh regions.

However problems dogged the region from the very start, as they similarly did with the other merged regions of the Neath-Swansea Ospreys and the Newport Gwent Dragons. Discussions and arguments abounded about the team name, colours and home grounds for most of the summer of 2003. The name "Valley Ravens" was a controversial choice but seen by many as a fair compromise (Bridgend's nickname was the Ravens while Pontypridd fans welcomed the Valley reference), however various marketing persons within the WRU did not like it. "The Crusaders" and "Celtic Crusaders" met with widespread dissaproval from both sets of fans as it incorporated neither teams identity. "Celtic Warriors" was finally decided upon more out of the need for actually needing a name than from any real agreement.

Argument over team colours ran alongside the naming problem until a compromise blue, black and white shirt was unveiled and satisfied most people, as did the initial decision to play an equal number of games at Bridgend's Brewery Field and Pontypridd's Sardis Road.

The team itself performed admirably well for a squad almost completely rebuilt over the summer, acquitting themselves well in both the Celtic League and European Rugby Cup. However financial problems at Pontypridd RFC led to the sale of their half of the Warriors to Bridgend RFC owner Leighton Samuel, which he in turn gifted to the WRU, a move that would later condemn the club. Further problems abounded as Samuel made the decision to abandon Pontypridd's Sardis Road in favour of playing all Warriors games in Bridgend. This brought the club into conflict with over 50% of its fan base and attendances (which were not great before) fell even further.

A farcical episode followed in the Spring and early Summer of 2004 where Leighton Samuel repeatedly threatened and revoked threats of selling the club; one such instance went as far as Samuel accepting an offer from the WRU before changing his mind. Unfortunately, the transaction was already considered to be legally binding, and so the Warriors became 100% owned by the WRU who controversially decided to liquidate the club in the Summer of 2004.

What followed was scandalous even by the standards of Welsh rugby, with players' contracts effectively torn up as they were pushed around to fill holes in the other four regional sides. A number simply chose to turn their back on the Welsh game and head for England, France, Ireland or even Italy. This left the ex-Warriors' fans feeling alienated from the professional game.

In the aftermath of the demise of the Warriors, a new rugby league club Celtic Crusaders was formed that play out of Brewery field. They are funded by Leighton Samuel, who has claimed that they are the reincarnation of the Warriors franchise.

Home Ground
The "Warriors" shared their home games between Bridgend's Brewery Field ground (home of Bridgend RFC) and Pontypridd's Sardis Road ground (home of Pontypridd RFC).

The region included three Welsh Premiership teams namely Glamorgan Wanderers, Bridgend RFC and Pontypridd RFC.


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