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Fantasy Rugby: Ultimate Six Nations preview

Pick players with the potential to score tries. That is one strategy suggested to selectors choosing their fifteens for our 2017 Six Nations Fantasy competition.

There are no changes to the rules that governed last year’s game, so the best rewards are heavily weighted towards try-scorers. In that respect, it’s worth remembering that the premium for forwards, the popular tweak which made such an impact on the 2016 version of the game, remains. Forwards collect three more Fantasy points (eight) than backs (five) when scoring tries.

2017 Fantasy Rugby!
Pick your team from the hundreds of players about to fight for the championship and be in the mix to win a MacBook Pro.

The big change is in the tournament itself. This will be the first Six Nations with bonus points for scoring four or more tries or losing by small margins (seven or fewer). The organisers hope the reward will encourage more attacking play and yield more tries, but will the innovation really change teams’ approach to matches? While the jury may still be out on that one, it makes sense for punters to consider packing their fifteens with possible try-scorers.

This season’s Six Nations begins off the back of a most successful autumn series for the leading European sides. Collectively, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy won 14 of their 21 Tests in November/December, with landmark first wins for Ireland over New Zealand and for Italy against South Africa among the highlights. France and Italy, in fact, were the only Six Nations team to return a win percentage worse than 66% in the autumn.

Who to pick in your team…

Centre

The most prolific try-scorers among back-threes in the autumn series were Virimi Vakatawa, Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Keith Earls and Jonny May. Vakatawa crossed four times, a record he shared with Jonathan Joseph who, arguably, should be first-choice among the centres.

England’s Jonathan Joseph arguably should be first-choice among the centres. David Rogers/Getty Images

Choosing Joseph’s partner isn’t straightforward, despite the fact that Huw Jones of Scotland was the only other centre who scored more than one try in November. Old hands will know that one of the most valuable individuals in any Fantasy fifteen is the goal-kicker. Owen Farrell, who is likely to feature in Eddie Jones’s plans as England’s inside-centre, must be the obvious selection in this department. Not only was he the hotshot of 2017, he was also the only regular place-kicker from the Six Nations to chip in with a try during the autumn Tests.

Half-back

There are difficult decisions to make at half-back. George Ford, Jean-Marc Doussain and Tommaso Allan were the sole fly-halves to score tries, and the only scrum-halves to do so were Ben Youngs, Gareth Davies and the Irish duo, Conor Murray and Kieran Marmion.

Back-row

There are plenty of try-grabbing contenders for places in the back-row. Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, the two Welsh No. 7s were among the autumn scorers, as were Hamish Watson (Scotland) and CJ Stander who was on the scoresheet for Ireland. In the absence of England’s Billy Vunipola, it is perhaps worth noting that the only out-and-out No. 8 to cross in the autumn series was Louis Picamoles of France.

Lock

Was there a better lock in November than Joe Launchbury? Admittedly Maro Itoje — who could alternatively feature in England’s back-row — was an absentee and is now back in the reckoning for the Six Nations, but Launchbury was outstanding for England in the autumn and scored more tries than any other second-row.

Joe Launchbury was one of England’s stand out players in the autumn series. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The only other locks who scored tries were Courtney Lawes, Jonny Gray, Ultan Dillane and Dries van Schalkwyk, who crossed for Italy against the Springboks. Not forgetting Iain Henderson, whom Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has a liking for using as both a lock and flanker.

Front-row

Front-row choices are always the most challenging aspect of Fantasy. They’re invariably substituted (which subtracts a point from their Fantasy score), they rarely steal line-out ball and they are invariably too far away from play to pick up try-assist points. Moreover, as the autumn Internationals showed, tries by them are scarce: the only ones by front-rowers in November were awarded to Ken Owens of Wales and Lorenzo Cittadini for Italy.

So, there’s a guide to recent try-scoring form by the current Six Nations squads, but remember the disclaimer used by the financial experts applies equally to Fantasy: past performance is not indicative of future results. Good luck, and enjoy!

Pick your team from the hundreds of players about to fight for the championship and be in the mix to win a MacBook Pro

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Fantasy Rugby: Ultimate Six Nations preview
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