With just over a week to go until the 2010 RBS Six Nations kicks off, it’s prime time to be putting together your fantasy team for this year’s competition. Andrew Daniel has been scouting around the various nations to expose the talent that could see you win your fantasy league.
There are numerous big decisions that need to be considered: Who do you pick initially? Do you tinker throughout the tournament or stick to your guns? Who should be your kicker? Below are a few options that may help you make up your mind.
Upfront in the pack it is hard to pick up points so you need to select players that are capable of making valuable contributions throughout the tournament.
Martin Castrogiavanni for instance is a shoo-in for a starting place in the Italian side as one of the best scrummagers in the tournament alongside Euan Murray of Scotland, yet the more mobile front row practitioners such as Gethin Jenkins, Dylan Hartley or Cian Healey may be the better option to help you progress up the leaderboard. They might not play a full 80 minutes each week, but take a risk on them and they might reward you with the odd try.
There is a wealth of talent in the second row and players such as Paul O’Connell and Alun Wynn Jones are always consistent performers. They should start every game, and whilst they might not score too many tries, there is certainly Man of the Match potential with these two. However, a crafty look at a player such as Courtney Lawes, who could also be selected in the back row as well as in the engine room, could reap very welcome rewards if he’s picked.
The back row is where significant headaches could easily occur within your selection policies and the French may just be where your allegiance lies. Imanol Harinordoquy and Thierry Dusautoir are proven try scorers with a great track record in this tournament – they’ll start most of the games, and could bring MoM points as well.
Italy will be debilitated by the massive loss of their injured talisman Sergio Parrise, but now might be the chance for Mauro Bergamasco to step up and prove his worth in the Italian back row. The Italians could well frustrate the likes of Scotland and England at the Stadio Flaminio, and Bergamasco is likely to spearhead their efforts, and reap the rewards in terms of fantasy points.
Ireland has an embarrassment of riches in this area of the field though and any of Stephen Ferris, David Wallace or Jamie Heaslip could be vital points scorers as the tournament progresses. If you think Ireland will defend their title, this trio will pick up plenty of win points in the fantasy league.
The scrum half position is a difficult quandary, with many nations not certain of who will be wearing the number nine shirt come the first weekend in February.
A goal kicking scrum half such as Jean-Baptiste Ellisalde of France could be an intelligent selection, although waiting until teams are announced next week might be sensible.
Fly half is where the points really need to flow, so a consistent kicker such as Jonny Wilkinson or Stephen Jones is a must. However, if you are more of a risk taker, you may want to choose someone like the new kid on the block, Jonathan Sexton of Ireland – he has that flair which could yield plenty of points. My money would be on the Irish youngster to shine in this year’s tournament and become a regular choice ahead the 2009 top point’s scorer Ronan O’Gara.
A dark horse would be Italy’s former Australian Rugby League captain Craig Gower who has impressed in patches but may be waiting for a stage like this to announce himself onto the International Union scene.
The joint top try-scorers from 2009 both play in the centres. Riki Flutey of England and Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland are back again this year and expect both to be back amongst the contenders for the top try award.
Controversial human wrecking ball Mathieu Bastereaud is back in the French squad and is fairly unstoppable from close range, whilst the impressive centre partnership of Jamie Roberts and Tom Shanklin is worth considering for try and assist points potential.
In the back three, watch out for the dynamic Evans brothers of Scotland – Thom and Max – as they could certainly be great value for your money. Shane Williams is usually a must-have player in everyone’s team, but his form has dipped of late, and taking on a player such as Tommy Bowe or Vincent Clerc might help you steal a march on your rivals.
All that leaves is the full back. Kicking machine Chris Paterson boasts one of the highest successful kicking percentages in the international game and could help sway your decision, depending on your choice of fly-half.
Other dangerous options at full back could be Rob Kearney of Ireland – impressive on last year’s Lions tour – Delon Armitage of England and the Welsh flyer Lee Byrne. All of these players should contribute plenty of points, particularly against the weaker nations, and your choice here may depend on choices elsewhere and the quota from each country.
The key to success lies in having forwards that score points, a consistent kicker and being able to spring a few surprises in selection that will give you an edge over your opponents. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on my team and it still isn’t finished so get cracking on yours now.
The Rugby Blog is running a fantasy team with Scrum – feel free to join in the fun by using the code 862.