Fantasy Rugby: Three must-have back rows

Josh Van der Flier Ireland
Often back rows earn their Fantasy Rugby keep through defensive dominance.

Often back rows earn their Fantasy Rugby keep through defensive dominance.

With a host of points on offer for dominant tackles and breakdown steals, possessing an all-action flanker or monstrous No.8 could make all the difference to your fantasy league fortunes.

Of course, try-scoring is a bonus too and the value of a forward with a knack of finding the try line cannot be understated.

So with that in mind, let’s begin our rundown of back row options for your side, starting with a potential England starter who has been on fire in the Gallagher Premiership.

Budget – Ben Earl – 10 stars

With England’s back-row depth there is no guarantee that Saracens stalwart Ben Earl will make Steve Borthwick’s XV, but he is bound to make an impact if he does.

The 25-year-old has played his way out of the international wilderness and back into contention with consistent brilliant displays for the London club and prior to that, while on loan at Bristol Bears.

He scored 11 tries in the Gallagher Premiership last season, which placed him third among all forwards – only beaten by two hookers playing for sides with a strong set-piece.

He leads all forwards for clean breaks so far this season and if he can replicate that dominance at Test level the points will be raining in thick and fast.

It’s also worth factoring in that a nominated supersub will see their points tripled should they come off the replacements bench, so even if Earl is not Borthwick’s first choice he could still be your shrewdest pick.

Mid-range – Matt Fagerson – 13 stars

If it’s an in-form try-scorer you are searching for then Scotland’s Matt Fagerson might be your man.

Though Fagerson has notched just one try so far in his international career, he has crossed in two of his last three appearances for Glasgow Warriors.

Arguably his finest outing in a Scotland shirt to date came in the 2022 Calcutta Cup, where he was awarded the Player of the Match award for an immense display on both sides of the ball – repeat the feat again in Round 1 this year and that would secure you a cool 15 points.

And with tackles and dominant tackles also well rewarded, a defensive workhorse like Fagerson is a must have.

Still only 24 and with two Championship’s under his belt now, the best is definitely yet to come – make sure you are the one to profit.

Premium – Josh van der Flier – 18 stars

Let’s just remind ourselves why Josh van der Flier earned a Player of the Championship nomination in 2022.

Van der Flier was the only Irishman to play every minute in the Championship, notching two tries as his side came up just short of a famous campaign.

Despite being on the wrong end of the result against France in Round 2, Van der Flier did much to bolster his burgeoning reputation, scoring a quickfire try to help drag his side back into the contest.

And he was on the scoresheet again in a comfortable 26-5 win over Scotland on Super Saturday, a victory that sealed the Triple Crown.

But it is not just try-scoring the 29-year-old offers. He really hit his straps when Italy visited the Irish capital, topping Ireland’s tackle count with 12 and carrying for 55 metres – those contributions alone would earn you 23 points this year.

Unsurprisingly, he was the top-scoring forward for Fantasy points last year. So he may be expensive, and the dearest forward at that, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.