With the start of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations just days away, budding rugby coaches will be spending this week fine-tuning their Fantasy Rugby teams in a bid to ensure their XV is ready for the big kick-off.
Whether you are looking to get one over your friends and family or simply beat your points total from last year, the official Fantasy Rugby Game offers an added layer of excitement to following the Championship as you track the progress of your chosen few.
Click here for a full explainer as to how it all works and where the points will be handed out – and make sure you sign up here in good time ahead of the weekend.
The enduring appeal of the Guinness Six Nations means it is followed by rugby fans new and old, from the seasoned supporters to those who are discovering the uniquely intense rivalries for the first time.
No matter where you sit on that spectrum, picking a Fantasy Rugby team is a guaranteed head-scratcher. With that in mind, here’s our attempt to ease your selection headache with five forwards you should have in your squad going into Round 1…
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Charles Ollivon (France)
There are points on offer for all sorts in Fantasy Rugby but ultimately, tries are the difference-maker.
Players earn 15 points for crossing the whitewash and the man doing just that more often than anyone else in last year’s Championship was France skipper Charles Ollivon, who dotted down on four occasions in 2020.
One of those came against France’s opponents on Saturday, Italy, and the all-action back-rower will be confident of beginning this year’s campaign on a high in Rome.
Priced at 14 stars, Ollivon also offers a good value alternative to his similarly influential counterpart Gregory Alldritt, who is the joint-highest priced forward at 16 stars.
Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
Speaking of great value, Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne could prove to be a snip at 11 stars.
A versatile forward who is equally comfortable at lock or flanker, Beirne is listed as a second row on the Fantasy Rugby game and is in the mix to line up for Andy Farrell’s side in their Championship opener in Cardiff.
The 29-year-old has been in excellent form for club side Munster, whose forwards coach Graham Rowntree said last week: “I’ve worked with a lot of Test players and he’d certainly be up there. His athleticism is ridiculous but he can also pack a scrum.”
As a Grand Slam winner in 2003, Rowntree knows a thing or two about competing in the Championship and his ringing endorsement is worth noting.
Tom Curry (England)
With a point on offer per tackle and two for any deemed dominant tackles, any of England’s well-drilled pack are worth a look.
Tom Curry has been a particularly impressive cog in the Red Rose machine and will take on even more responsibility this year in the absence of his fellow influential flanker Sam Underhill through injury.
The Sale Sharks man made 72 tackles in last year’s Championship – a tally only topped by Maro Itoje (80) among the victorious England squad.
Curry, priced at 15 stars, also made more carries (47) than any of his teammates which, with every metre made worth 0.3 points in Fantasy Rugby, could be crucial when it comes to making the most of those fine point-scoring margins.
Jamie Ritchie (Scotland)
Standing two places above Curry in last year’s leading carriers chart was Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie, who set off on 50 ball-carrying expeditions in the 2020 Championship.
Brilliant at the breakdown – Ritchie won six turnovers in last year’s Guinness Six Nations – and tenacious in the tackle, the 24-year-old will be looking to build on the display which saw him win the Player of the Match award in Scotland’s 14-10 victory over Wales in October.
BT Murrayfield is Ritchie’s second home and he recently signed the longest contract extension in Edinburgh history – with three games in the Scottish capital to look forward to, the flanker will be key to his side’s chances of success.
Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Last but by no means least is another world-class back-row option, Wales star Taulupe Faletau.
Ever since playing a starring role in his maiden Championship, helping Wales to a Grand Slam in 2012 at the age of just 21, Faletau has been a pivotal part of his side’s pack and will be as eager as anyone to help his country improve on fifth place last time out.
He was at his rampaging best in Wales’ most recent international, the 38-18 Autumn Nations Cup win over Italy in December, making 101 metres from his 18 carries and crunching into 12 tackles.
If he picks up from where he left off, starting against Ireland this weekend, the 15-star Faletau will be a must-have for Fantasy Rugby managers.