As the RBS Six Nations draws near, thoughts begin to turn to team selection – not just for the national coaching panels, but also for the raft of fantasy managers out there.
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Everyone knows that props don’t score many tries – just ask Jason Leonard – so the key here is to identify front row players that don’t get taken off in the second half, diminishing their points return.
You don’t necessarily want to use up your quota from the best sides either, which makes Italy worth a look in the front row department. Everyone normally goes for Martin Castrogiovanni, and players like Matthew Rees, William Servat and Andrew Sheridan are worth a look.
Remember that you don’t need to have a classic front row with two props and a hooker – pick three hookers if you think they are more likely to score.
Again, the focus here is on players that will play a full 80-minutes, whilst keeping an eye out for those that might just score a try or turn in a Man of the Match performance for stealing lineouts all day.
That makes new Scotland captain Alastair Kellock a great candidate, along with Ireland stalwart Paul O’Connell, Leo Cullen who has hit some form, or Jerome Thion of France. The French selection policy might just put you off, but keep an eye out for team news before the first game for a clue.
This is one of the key areas in fantasy rugby – there are lots of players to choose from, which means you’ll probably end up with a different side to your rivals, and there are plenty of point-scoring opportunities.
Having harped on about how Phil Dowson should be picked for England, I want to pick him in my team, but that probably wouldn’t be sensible as he’ll get limited game time. Ireland’s Stephen Ferris however is a shoo-in for me – one of Ireland’s best players, usually a standout candidate for Man of the Match and a tryscoring threat as well.
Imanol Harinordoquy is another very worthy of consideration, and is a key player for the French, alongside Thierry Dusautoir – these two are usually MoM candidates every time.
England’s Nick Easter is often a favourite option for MoM if England’s pack has played well, he has been known to score the odd try as well, and given that he’s likely to play a full part in every match, could be an unlikely fantasy gem.
The back row is one of Scotland’s key strengths, and Richie Vernon and John Barclay will feature in many people’s teams. Elsewhere, a punt on Ireland’s Sean O’Brien might not be a bad shout with so many people raving about his talent, but it’s worth waiting for team news to see if he’ll oust David Wallace at openside.
Scrum-half is usually a tricky position to fill. Everyone is talking up Ben Youngs at the moment, and like it or loathe it, that makes him a great candidate for the MoM award. On the downside, most of your rivals will have picked him as well.
Morgan Parra has been playing well for Clermont, and could be a suitable option for kicker as well – depending on the French team selection of course, because Dimitri Yachvili isn’t bad either.
Choosing your fly-half can be crucial, as they are also likely to amass points as your designated goal-kicker – a player like Stephen Jones would be a safe bet to stick with throughout the tournament.
However, it can be worth assessing the options on a week-by-week basis depending on the opposition. Jonny Sexton of Ireland is my pick, particularly in week one against Italy, assuming he starts ahead of Ronan O’Gara.
In the centres, you need try-scoring potential from players that should play every game – England might not be the best place to look for this one.
Brian O’Driscoll is like a magnet for most fantasy managers, and deservedly so given his Six Nations pedigree. Frenchman Yanick Jauzion is also a fantasy favourite, regularly picking up the MoM even if the commentators cannot pronounce his name, but you may need to examine the other options if you want to outscore your rivals.
Jamie Roberts will return from injury for Wales, and he and James Hook should certainly be contenders – however, you may want to take a view on how Wales will perform in general this year, considering their injury list and understrength pack.
A player like Max Evans of Scotland could yield significant returns, and points that your rivals might not pick up, but I think it’s worth holding out for team announcements before looking beyond the obvious.
This can be where fantasy leagues are won and lost in rugby, as usually the try-scoring firepower is in the back three.
Headline players such as Chris Ashton and Shane Williams will feature in many sides, which is no surprise given their try-scoring records.
The French back three can be a good bet for plenty of points, but Marc Lievremont’s random selection policy can cause problems – Maxime Medard and Vincent Clerc are my picks here, with the added note of caution.
There are concerns over Tommy Bowe‘s fitness, but he is a great option if and when he’s selected, and you might consider Keith Earls against Italy, depending on Declan Kidney’s selection.
Again, remember again that you don’t necessarily need two wings and a full-back – there’s no place for balance in a fantasy team.
Don’t forget that you’re allowed 15 transfers in total, and a maximum of 5 per round, which is more than enough. Take a look at the fixtures each week and consider where the points will be scored, then load up on players from that country.
Keep an eye on form as well: who is scoring tries and which players win the Man of the Match award each week.
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Disclaimer: this is based on Hutch’s views only and he will be in no way responsible for you being beaten by your mates!