With the start 2022 Guinness Six Nations finally here and line-ups announced, it is now very much time to begin fine-tuning your Fantasy Rugby team for Round 1.
The deadline is set for kick-off in the Ireland v Wales fixture – 2:15pm on Saturday 5 February, so there is still plenty of time to make a team if you haven’t yet.
But with Rugby’s Greatest Championship just hours away, what better time to keep an eye on the opening round from a Fantasy Rugby perspective, looking at the best players from a year ago and some statistics that might help you to make your decision.
Fly-half battle – Johnny Sexton v Dan Biggar?
For many, the choice at fly-half is the hardest, with No.10s often scoring the most points due to their kicking prowess.
With kickers receiving three Fantasy Rugby points per kick at goal (penalties and conversions), they can often be the ones chosen to take on the captaincy armband for the double points.
And in Round 1, the two captains in the opening clash – Johnny Sexton and Dan Biggar, emerge as favourites to take on the fly-half role and with it, quite possibly the captain’s armband.
Sexton will set you back 17 stars, three more than his fly-half rival Biggar, who at 14 stars represents excellent value.
Sexton, 36, was last season’s top Championship scorer with 65 points, while Biggar, who is hoping to guide Wales to victory in his first game in charge, was third on that list with 36.
That shows the duo’s potential for scoring big points, and in a game that is likely to be extremely close, both teams will be going for goal more often than not.
But of course, there are plenty of other options at fly-half, with Marcus Smith and Finn Russell going head-to-head at BT Murrayfield and Paolo Garbisi and Romain Ntamack looking to renew their Top 14 rivalry at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Back three – Is it possible to fit three premiums?
The back three is almost always the most exciting area to select players due to the simple fact that they can be a big differential.
With tries scoring a whopping 15 Fantasy Rugby points, predicting the right try scorer at the weekend can be the difference between top spot and a mediocre finish come the end of the Championship.
For this opening round there are some players that will be going straight into a lot of teams, but they come at a price – these are of course the premium players.
In the back three those premiums could set you back over 50 of your 250 stars, potentially leaving you short elsewhere.
For example, if you wanted to select Scotland captain Stuart Hogg (18 stars), last season’s top try-scorer Duhan van der Merwe (16) and the second top-scorer Louis Rees-Zammit (16), that would cost you exactly 50 stars, leaving you with only 200 for the remaining 12 starting players and substitutes.
But in the case of those three, it may be necessary to try to fit them in due to their incredible try-scoring potential – they scored 11 tries between them last year, meaning that perhaps it is going to be elsewhere that bargains may be required.
Back row conundrum
Another area that can be a real difference maker is the back row.
Players receive one point per tackle made, and three points for a dominant tackle, making the back row another area in the team that can often deliver big points.
Last year’s top three back row tacklers are all missing from the Guinness Six Nations in 2022, with Welsh duo Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau out, as well as France captain Charles Ollivon.
But some of last year’s top tacklers in the back row are ready to perform, with Gregory Alldritt (16 stars), Tom Curry (16), last year’s player of the Championship Hamish Watson (17), Matt Fagerson (9) and Tadhg Beirne (15) all among the top performers a year ago.
They will all be very popular and will no doubt rise in value between now and March 19th with their defensive brilliance likely to reward Fantasy Rugby managers.
But the back row is not all about tackling, with try scoring and metres made an important area to consider.
Tries are the way to the most points, with 15 per score, and one of Europe’s most prolific scorers is starting for England at BT Murrayfield, while another is on the bench.
Sam Simmonds (11 stars), who broke the Premiership try scoring record last season at Exeter Chiefs, starts at No.8, while Alex Dombrandt (12 stars), who has scored two hat-tricks in the past month for Harlequins, will be looking to add impact off the bench.
They too will be players to consider ahead of this weekend.
As mentioned with premium players in the back-three and back row, in order to secure the most expensive players in the game, there are going to be certain areas where a bargain is needed.
There are what seem like bargains in almost every position, with some mentioned earlier on in the article.
England full-back Freddie Steward costs just 13 stars despite his phenomenal Autumn Nations Series, while his teammate Joe Marchant, who starts on the wing but is a centre in Fantasy Rugby costs the same price.
Biggar at 14 stars seems like a bargain considering his points potential and proven track record, while in-form Italian fly-half Paolo Garbisi comes in at just 12 stars which may be too good to resist.
Jamison Gibson-Park has been chosen as the starting scrum-half for Ireland against Wales, and at just 11 stars, he is another who could come into your side to allow you to bring in those premium players elsewhere.
The back row, whilst full of premium options that will be must-haves, also has its fair share of bargains, with Simmonds at 11 stars and Fagerson at just 9 stars two of the best bargains in the game, while Taine Basham coming in at 11 stars could also be a worthwhile selection.
In such a competitive and open Guinness Six Nations, there appear to be very few must-have players, with several options in multiple positions.
French scrum-half Antoine Dupont, World Rugby player of the year in 2021 and Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship in 2020, is someone who certainly has that tag, and at 19 stars, does not come cheap.
Hamish Watson is another who is essential heading into this Championship, while Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong (15 stars) is another who will be extremely important for all Fantasy Rugby teams.
Maro Itoje (18 stars) also comes into this Guinness Six Nations with too much potential point-scoring to ignore, with his tackling, ball carrying and ability to pick up man of the match awards (which reward you with 15 points) making him someone that has to find a slot.
Multiple premium options in the back three make it difficult to nail down one particular man, but Scotland captain Stuart Hogg (18 stars) always seems to deliver, and has more than just try-scoring potential, with metres made also earning points.
Captain options are always tricky, especially in Round 1, when you are yet to grasp the form of teams.
The double points make them a very important decision, while playing fewer minutes also means fewer team points, so selecting someone that is likely to be replaced fairly early may not be the best policy.
This week, both Sexton and Biggar emerge as good captaincy options as mentioned before, while you can rarely go wrong with Hogg.
There is extreme try scoring potential in the likes of Rees-Zammit and Van der Merwe, while Damian Penaud (15 stars) has a good record for France.
Their captain for the tournament Dupont may be another that could take your armband, due to his potential to break away and score, while Melvyn Jaminet (12 stars) emerges as a differential captain option due to his goal kicking.
The final area that could be the difference between you bragging to your friends and family and them making you want to avoid them, is the super sub.
Should you select a player who is on the replacements bench in real life, their points will be tripled when they come on, meaning they really could give you that cutting edge.
Kickers are often popular here, which will make Callum Sheedy (8 stars), George Ford (14.5 stars) and Joey Carbery (13 stars) highly sought-after options for the super sub role.
But don’t rule out proven try scorers either, like Dombrandt, Peato Mauvaka (13 stars) and Blair Kinghorn (13 stars) who could come on and score a try which would secure you an incredible 45 points.