The week before the Six Nations kicks off is mostly about fine-tuning your Fantasy Rugby squad, and here is everything you need to know to win your pool, and come second to me in The Rugby Blog fantasy league.
The Superbru Fantasy Rugby game is simple to play, but with a sophisticated scoring system that it’s important to understand before picking a squad. I’ve republished some of the advice from last year, with much of it still relevant.
As well as points for tries and kicks, players are rewarded for other aspects of their contribution to the game, such as metres gained, defenders beaten, tackles made, and scrums and lineouts won for the forwards. There are full details of the scoring system here, but it’s a much fairer reflection of the contribution made by each position.
Outside Backs still tend to be the highest-scoring players, with lots of metres gained and the potential for tries, whilst the Back Row players can also contribute significant points thanks to the various forwards-only rewards, as well as tackles made and ball-carrying.
Those are the two categories to start with, along with your kicker, when selecting a squad, and obviously all the usual considerations for building a fantasy team still apply – which players are most likely to start, and which teams have the weakest opposition in the early rounds.
1. Select your Outside Backs
Given the rewards for metres gained and defenders beaten, full-backs can often rack up points when returning kicks, and it’s worth looking at the key candidates ahead of the wingers for that reason. They are usually the best bet to make captain as well, which earns you double points, and making the right decision can be crucial.
Stuart Hogg is Fantasy Rugby royalty, often running the ball rather than kicking it too often, he consistently beats defenders and scores very well. He was the highest-scoring outside back in last year’s competition, excluding kicking points, and he really should be in your fantasy squad. He’ll be a popular choice among the masses, and Scotland is expected to do well this season, so get him in there now.
Love him or loathe him, Mike Brown is another running full-back, and almost always beats at least one defender, so can accrue some good points even if he doesn’t score too many tries. You don’t get any points for passing the ball, so that oft-cited criticism of Brown is not relevant here. It’s worth waiting for the team selection on Friday of course, but I suspect Brown will be installed at full-back for the Italy game.
I would then be stocking up players from the team that plays Italy that week, with a generous six transfers per round and a limit of four players per team offering enough flexibility. Jonny May has been on fine try-scoring form for Leicester and should be a great option in Rome, and then I’m going for Jacob Stockdale of Ireland, with one eye on their Italy match next week.
2. Pick a kicker
Only your designated kicker will earn kicking points, and this is a critical selection that can make or break your team.
Owen Farrell is the obvious man for Round 1, with England up against Italy and I predict that Farrell will be the top-scoring kicker in the opening round.
Jonny Sexton is another strong pick, and you’ll need him kicking for you in Round 2 anyway, so you can reunite the Lions 10 and 12 in your own dream team.
3. Select your back row
A strong back row can often make the difference – most people will select all their backs first, and then hit the team limits whilst selecting the forwards, but big ball carriers can often be very high-scorers, and you won’t want to be limited in your choice. Louis Picamoles, last year’s highest-scoring back row player in the game, and Billy Vunipola are both missing, so we could see plenty of team variety in this area.
CJ Stander becomes a shoo-in here, whilst Sergio Parisse is always a popular pick in any Fantasy Rugby game, he will almost certainly win Man of the Match in the (unlikely) event of an Italy victory, and is useful bench fodder.
I’ve also gone for Ross Moriarty here, whom I believe will have a big role to play in the absence of Wales’ more experienced back row options. England looks a bit light in terms of ball-carrying options, so I’m overlooking them in this position, in favour of two top-performers from last year: Kevin Gourdon of France, and Hamish Watson of Scotland.
4. Fill out your backline
We’ll need to wait for confirmation of the lineups before committing to our centres and scrum-halves, but names to look out for in midfield include Jonathan Joseph, Remi Lamerat, Ben Te’o, Huw Jones and Bundee Aki.
At scrum-half, Danny Care is worth considering, although it’s a gamble and we also need to save an England spot for Maro Itoje if he’s fit. Care only started one match in last year’s tournament, but finished as the highest-scoring scrum half. As the archetypal ‘finisher’ under Eddie Jones, he often scores well in 20-30 mins at the end of a match, running at a tired defence.
Conor Murray is always a popular choice at scrum-half, but I’d rather not use up an Ireland place with a relatively low-scoring position. Antoine Dupont and Gareth Davies are worth considering ahead of Murray in my view, and remember that this is a good position to use up a selection from Italy, who can sit on your bench for the whole tournament. Welcome Eduardo Gori to my squad.
5. Select Locks
Maro Itoje has been passed fit for selection apparently, and you’ll need to save a place for him. He’ll be the most popular selection here, he could end up ‘out of position’ in the back row, he’s a Man of the Match award magnet and he’s a must.
Sebastien Vahaamahina of France is another strong option here, along with Iain Henderson and Jonny Gray, whilst some might prefer Joe Launchbury in the engine room to Itoje – Launchbury was actually last year’s top-scorer in this position, winning up two man-of-the-match awards during the course of the tournament.
6. Pick a Hooker
You can only have one starting hooker, which makes it more interesting than other games where you can just fill your front row with three running hookers. Guilhem Guirado is the go-to man here, and then you can choose an Italian to sit on the bench.
By the time you get to the lowest scoring position group, you’ll need to be filling up on players from the least popular teams, and I’ve gone for the two Welsh props and an Italian.
So there you have it, the winning formula, with the usual caveats that you need to check the starting lineups, which will all be displayed on Superbru as they are announced.
Here is the current draft of my squad – what do you think?
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James
Photos by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images