International wheelchair rugby league returns on Saturday (12 June) for the first time since 2019, with the fifth Celtic Cup being played between Ireland, holders Wales and hosts Scotland.
The matches have been moved from Edinburgh University, which is still being used as a Covid-19 testing centre, to the Oriam Performance Sport Centre at Heriot-Watt University in the capital.
Each nation will play the other across the day, with the Welsh – who have won all four previous tournaments since inception in 2016 – again starting as favourites. They will use the Cup as preparation for their forthcoming international with England in Sheffield and the Wheelchair World Cup later in the year, and have drafted in a number of debutants.
Head coach Stephen Jones said: “The Celtic Cup has always been an important tournament for Wales as it has helped us to develop a squad with greater depth. With so many players putting their hand up for World Cup selection it will give players a chance to showcase themselves.
“There are a few new faces not least multiple league and cup winner Jodie Boyd-Ward, father and son Jason and Jamie Reynolds and Mason Baker. This will be a great curtain raiser for the 2021 campaign culminating in the World Cup. A huge thanks needs to go to Ollie Cruickshank and Scotland RL for all their hard work in making this tournament happen in the current climate and with strict restrictions in place.”
Scotland are also using the Celtic Cup as preparation for the World Cup.
“Having the Celtic Cup date in the diary has allowed us to really focus and channel our efforts despite training as a squad being understandably limited,” said their head coach Mark Roughsedge, who formerly occupied a similar role with England. “It will play an even more significant role this year and allow us to review the performance of individuals and leave them in no doubt as to what we need to see for them moving forward.
“We also have several debutants which is exciting, some of them are very raw so this is an opportunity for us to shape their development. This will be the biggest squad we have assembled in several years which is a great place to be, and we will ensure that everyone has enough opportunity to show us what value that they can add.”
Ireland is seeing the wheelchair game develop and, with some travel restrictions for their players still in place, will be operating with the smallest squad.
“This tournament represents a starting block for us as a new squad,” commented their head coach Damian McCabe. “Hopefully we will grow during these two games and leave the tournament a stronger side than when we go in. Despite the size of the squad, I am happy to say we have gelled together very quickly which gives me confidence that this team can pull together on the day. All our players are excited and can’t wait to get on the court.”
All the matches will be live-streamed.
CELTIC CUP SCHEDULE
Scotland v Ireland (10.30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e5SomkJ2AI
Ireland v Wales (12.30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g_O5JjgCcU
Scotland v Wales (14.30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFzdJoSb3rk