|Founded||2003 (disbanded in 2004)|
|Location|| Bridgend, Wales |
|Ground(s)|| Brewery Field |
Sardis Road (Capacity: 12,000
|Captain(s)|| Gareth Thomas |
|League(s)|| Celtic League |
The Celtic Warriors (Welsh : Y Rhyfelwyr Celtaidd) were a rugby union team from Wales, who played in the 2003–04 Celtic League and the 2003–04 Heineken Cup following the introduction of regional rugby union teams in Wales. They were effectively a temporary merger of Pontypridd RFC and Bridgend RFC. The Celtic Warriors played just one season before disbanding.
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 Welsh Rugby Union controversially elected to reduce the current top tier of Welsh Professional Rugby from nine clubs into five regions, attempting to mirror the successful formats of rugby union in Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Officially representing the mid-Glamorgan area, including Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, Pontypridd, Caerphilly, Maesteg and Bridgend, and south Powys, the Celtic Warriors was in practice a combination of two Welsh Premier Division clubs, Pontypridd RFC and Bridgend RFC . With Bridgend RFC having clinched the 2002–03 Welsh Premier League title and Pontypridd RFC being consistently strong in those competitions, the Warriors were considered one of the strongest line-ups of the five 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 Welsh Rugby Union did not like it. "The Crusaders" and "Celtic Crusaders" met with widespread disapproval from both sets of fans as it incorporated neither team's identity. "Celtic Warriors" was finally decided upon more out of the need for 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 well for a squad almost completely rebuilt over the summer, acquitting themselves well in both the 2003–04 Celtic League and the 2003–04 Heineken 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 gave to the WRU, a move that would later condemn the club. Further problems occurred 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 a large proportion of its fan base and attendances fell.
Trouble 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. This transaction was considered to be legally binding, and the Warriors became 100% owned by the WRU who decided to liquidate the club on 1 June 2004.
Samuels claimed that the WRU had promised to keep the region going for a second season but reneged on the deal. He challenged the Union over this in a high court case which the Union settled just before it came to court.
With the demise of the club, players' contracts were effectively torn up as they were pushed around to fill positions in the other four regional sides. A number simply chose to turn their back on the Welsh game and moved to teams in England and France. 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 and played out of Brewery Field. They were funded by Leighton Samuel, who claimed that they were the reincarnation of the Warriors franchise. The club lasted four seasons in Bridgend before relocating to Wrexham under new ownership.
The "Warriors" used both Brewery Field and Sardis Road for their home games.
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
Bridgend is a town in Bridgend County Borough in Wales, 20 miles (32 km) west of the capital Cardiff and 20 miles (32 km) east of Swansea. The river crossed by the original bridge, which gave the town its name, is the River Ogmore, but the River Ewenny also passes to the south of the town.
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Pontypridd Rugby Football Club are a rugby union team from Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. They compete in the Indigo Group Premiership, which they won for four consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2015, and the Specsavers National Cup, which they have won on 6 occasions, with the most recent being in 2014.
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Gareth Thomas, nicknamed "Alfie", is a Welsh former professional rugby player, who represented Wales in both rugby union and rugby league. With 100 test match appearances he was the most capped Welsh rugby union player until he was overtaken by Stephen Jones in September 2011. He is currently ranked 14th among international try scorers, and is the second highest Wales try scorer behind Shane Williams. He also won four rugby league caps for Wales, scoring three tries.
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Dafydd Rhys James is a former Welsh international rugby union footballer who plays on the wing or at centre. He toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2001. James was born in Mufulira, Zambia, but has earned 48 caps for Wales and three for the British & Irish Lions. His clubs include; Kenfig Hill RFC, Llanelli, Bridgend, Pontypridd, Harlequins, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues, Sale Sharks and HKCC Rugby.
Brewery Field is an 8,000 capacity sports stadium in Bridgend, Wales. It is the home ground of the rugby union team Bridgend Ravens. Bridgend Athletic RFC often use the ground for their home matches, as well as the Ospreys who sometimes play at the ground, including their age grade teams.
Bridgend Ravens are a semi-professional rugby union club based in Bridgend, South Wales.
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Matthew Dean Nuthall, is a rugby union player for Pontypridd RFC in the Principality Premiership. Matthew shot to fame at the end of the 2001/02 season with a man of the match performance in his first ever senior outing for Pontypridd against Bridgend. His rise to stardom continued with a place in the Ponty team which clinched the 2002 Welsh Cup against Llanelli, whilst still qualified at the youth age level. Matthew was drafted into the Celtic Warriors regional squad in 2003, but turning out regularly for Pontypridd at club level.
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