Wing Neumann and lock Fleming emerged as ever-presents for coach Ioan Cunningham’s side during the 2023 Six Nations campaign and were two of the 30 players to make history and be selected for the inaugural WXV1 tournament in New Zealand.
Both, however, used last season’s Celtic Challenge competition between Welsh, Irish and Scottish sides to stake a claim for international recognition and to establish themselves in the Test arena for Wales.
The Celtic Challenge has been expanded to feature two Welsh teams, competing in eight fixtures over a ten-week period between December 2023 and March 2024. The WRU will be holding an open trial at the National Centre of Excellence, Vale Resort, Hensol, on December 2nd and 3rd for all Welsh-qualified players competing in the Welsh or English Premiership and Championship.
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Neumann and Fleming played in the inaugural Celtic Challenge and both used the cross-border tournament as a launchpad to establish themselves in the Test arena and at club level.
While they were part of the Wales squad to secure third place in the Six Nations for the first time in 14 years and rise to sixth in the world rankings, their highest ever position, the pair also played in the showpiece final of the season for their respective clubs.
Neumann, who has won 36 Wales caps, gained invaluable game-time away from her club Gloucester-Hartpury and finished the Prem15 finals scoring her side’s final try to clinch the title for the first time at sold-out ‘Queensholm’.
Fleming, who has won 11 caps for Wales, did the same and was widely regarded as Wales’ most improved player during the Six Nations also featured in the Prem15 final for Exeter Chiefs before signing for London aristocrats, Harlequins, this summer.
Neumann said: “Every player needs to play to find some form and to prove to themselves and to the coaches what they can do. Personally, the Celtic Challenge tournament was a real launchpad for my season.
“Getting out on the pitch, mixing it with the Irish and Scottish sides allowed me to remind people of what I can do. From there, it was Wales selection for the Six Nations and ultimately for the WXV in New Zealand.”
Fleming, added: “Playing in the Celtic Challenge teams proved hugely beneficial and allowed me to put myself in the frame for Wales selection. There is no substitute for playing and having the opportunity to impress the coaches was vital for club and country.
“Playing Celtic Challenge rugby gave me a real foundation for what proved to be a memorable season for Wales and myself. Any aspiring player, who has ambitions to play professional rugby or international rugby, can really show their potential at that level.”