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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Welsh rugby's new dawn
By Sean Davies

TEAM-BY-TEAM PREDICTIONS
Wales' new regional rugby coaches
BBC Sport previews the chances of Wales' new regional rugby sides in Celtic and European competition.

Bring on the Ospreys, Blues, Dragons, Scarlets and Warriors!

However you look at it, for good or ill, there's no doubting that it's a new dawn for Welsh rugby.

Regional rugby has had an uneasy birth, the recent wranglings in Gwent being but the latest in a series of petty squabbles and civil wars that have only strengthened the view from outside Wales that the game there is a tired joke.

We could witter on about the problems and disputes all day, but - at the risk of sounding like a WRU PR man - now is the time to ditch the negativity.

The numbers game dictates that Wales' five regional squads will be stronger and, hopefully, more professional than the nine teams in last season's bloated premier division.

They will be led by five of the brightest coaching talents available to Wales who hope to deliver a coherent playing structure that will be fed up to the national set-up.

PREDICTED WINNERS
Celtic League: Munster
Celtic Cup: Munster
Challenge Cup: Montferrand
Challenge Shield: Glasgow
Heineken Cup: Wasps
It remains to be seen how the fans will take to the new entities.

Selling them in the short term will prove doubly difficult, with the Celtic League and Cup competing for attention with some internationals being played down in Australia for the Webb Ellis Trophy...

In those opening months, the regional sides will be denied the services of their most marketable goods, their international stars.

Given that, it will be hard to judge the true potential of the sides in the first season.

Wales' stars should be back in harness with their regional teams in time for the Heineken Cup, but it will take the sides time to gel and deliver what their coaches ask of them.

Wales' best chance of success in Europe and the Celtic League would therefore seem to lie once again with Llanelli, the squad least affected by the regional upheaval.

For the other teams, it could be a case of learning, building - and selling the regional concept to a sceptical public who will only be won by success.




CELTIC RUGBY

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SEE ALSO
Heineken Cup 2003/4
26 Nov 02  |  European Club



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