NatWest 6 Nations Fantasy Rugby Panel: Round Four – the backs

Gareth Anscombe with CJ Stander and Jack Conan 24/2/2018
Ireland are top of the standings heading into Round 4 of the NatWest 6 Nations having gone unbeaten in the Championship so far and unsurprisingly dominate the fantasy stats.

Ireland are top of the standings heading into Round 4 of the NatWest 6 Nations having gone unbeaten in the Championship so far and unsurprisingly dominate the fantasy stats.

The Scots put in an outstanding performance in their historic win over England, whilst France saw their first triumph of the Championship by downing Italy in Marseilles.

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This weekend’s fixtures could change everything though, with a high-flying Scotland team heading to Dublin, a showdown between the French and the defending champions England, and the Welsh taking on the Italians.   There will no doubt be changes in the NatWest 6 Nations Fantasy game, so we’ve brought together our panel of Luke Baker, Charlie Talbot-Smith and Paul Eddison to discuss who should make your team.

Following the discussion of forwards, our experts debate options in the back line from the three games in Round 4 to look forward to.

Charlie Talbot-Smith: Gareth Anscombe has probably been my favourite player of the NatWest 6 Nations so far. I’ve loved watching him, he gets his go at number 10. He’s only 10.4 stars, he’s playing fly-half against Italy. His passing off both hands is great and he’s actually very good at carrying in his own right, often breaks the line and creates for himself and for others.

Luke Baker: Will he be kicking as well?

CTS: It looks like he will yes, because Liam Williams is full back isn’t he? And sticking with the half backs, we mention him every week but Gareth Davies is still one of the cheapest scrum halves in the game and is racking up minutes and tries like nobody’s business.

Paul Eddison: Another Welsh back is Owen Watkin, he’s being doing well for the Ospreys.

LB: Super cheap, 9.5 stars.

PE: Very cheap, also likes a try and can quite often pop up and get you a score so I’d be very intrigued by him.

CTS: The last time I watched him was against Clermont in the Champions Cup and he beat something like 15 defenders, so he is an extremely elusive runner.

LB: And his centre mate Hadleigh Parkes is still only 11.6, big ball carrier. I’ve been impressed with Parkes since he was a fledgling, every time he puts on a Welsh shirt he plays well, so against Italy in Cardiff Hadleigh will probably fancy his chances there.

CTS: What about across the Irish sea? Huw Jones, we can’t say it any more times, if you haven’t got him in your team by now, more fool you.

LB: Yeah get him in.

PE: Keith Earls has positional value and is certainly worth a look, he’s popped up a lot this week, could even sneak in at 13 depending on how Joe Schmidt wants to go.

LB: Jacob Stockdale is prohibitively expensive at 17.7, the most expensive man in the game but scoring tries for fun. As we’ve said before, he’s such a Joe Schmidt winger, if you’ve got some money to burn then there are worse places to burn it. Just as a completely rogue shout, Blair Kinghorn – he’s in the game as a fly half, he’s only 8.8 so you’regoing to have a kicker come off.

CTS: But wings get you points and if you put Kinghorn at fly half and Earls at centre, plus pick your two wingers, suddenly you’ve got a pretty tasty looking back line.

LB: Kinghorn has been absolutely electric for Edinburgh in the PRO14 this season, he’s made more metres than any other player in the PRO14, he’s beaten the second-most defenders. It’s a rogue call as obviously he’s not playing fly half but if you can fit wingers in at other positions it’s worth it.

CTS: I absolutely love that shout, I’m annoyed I didn’t spot that he was in the fly half position, I actually thought he wasn’t on the game.

LB: There you go, as long as you’ve got a fly half there, there’s great value there, a good way to get differential value.

CTS: I like it. I’ve also written down here Joey Carbery, there’s been a lot of talk this week that he’s been training at inside centre, I love that but I don’t think it’s going to happen – not the way Bundee Aki has been playing – but it will be interesting to see where Joey comes on, if it’s a tight game they probably won’t take Sexton off so he might get a go in midfield.

PE: Or at full back.

CTS: Yes or at 15, and like we’ve said before he’s one of the most exciting players to watch with ball in hand in the northern hemisphere, and he’s quite cheap as well. What about England and France then, so we don’t think Teddy Thomas is coming back?

PE: Teddy’s injured so he’s definitely not back. They’ve named the same squad so the indication was that the only change might be Geoffrey Palis for Hugo Bonneval.

CTS: Palis is cheap, he’s only 9 stars. He didn’t cover himself in glory in Scotland but then neither did anyone.

PE: No, so he could be an interesting one. After his performance last time, you have to have a look at Mathieu Bastareaud, he was absolutely exceptional. It will be a very different challenge if he’s up against Jonathan Joseph or maybe even against Ben Te’o, but he’s basically a one-man carrying machine, he draws in defenders, his offloading has improved, he’s very good over the ball – which England have obviously struggled at recently. So you’d expect him to be worth a look, and Remy Grosso.

CTS: Yeah, I’ve got Grosso written down here, still pretty cheap at 12 stars.

PE: He was really good this weekend for Clermont, he is in excellent form, so I’d be looking at him.

CTS: I thought Te’o looked bright when he came on against Scotland, another game under his belt, we saw what he can do when he’s at full tilt on the Lions tour.

PE: And against France last year.

CTS: Yes scoring the match-winning try, so I think he would be a good bet for this game. Eddie Jones is not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, they’ve only lost two games under his reign, so I don’t see wholesale changes.

LB: I don’t think Danny Care is the worst shout at scrum half this week, 14.2 stars so he’s not super cheap but the French always run England close, especially at the Stade de France, and I feel like it’s going to be a tight game so I can just see Care sniping off the back of a ruck and going over from close-range to nick a try, like in 2016, so it’s a hunch on my part rather than based on anything in particular.

CTS: That’s been brushed under the carpet I think because there’s been a lot of chat about Danny Care and if you have Richard Wigglesworth then you should start Wigglesworth, people saying Care’s only starting meaningless games, but Eddie Jones gave him the start for that game and he was very much rewarded in that game in 2016, so Danny Care will not be overawed by starting in the Stade de France, that’s a nice shout.

PE: On the subject of 2016, Maxime Machenaud was absolutely flawless with kicking in that game and if you are looking for a scrum half to kick that maybe an option. Maybe he wasn’t at his best against Italy but I think he’s only missed one kick all Championship.