Irish Times Fantasy Rugby: who to pick in your XV

It’s time to test your mettle and select a side to challenge ahead of the 2019 Six Nations

Jacob Stockdale has scored 12 tries in 13 Test match appearances. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Jacob Stockdale has scored 12 tries in 13 Test match appearances. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

The jewel in the crown of northern hempisphere rugby - the Six Nations - is nearly upon us.

Over six weeks familiar foes will renew old rivalries in a bid to be crowned championship winners on Saturday March 16th.

Ireland remain strong favourites to retain their title, after a vintage 2018 which saw them follow-up the Grand Slam with a November victory over the All Blacks.

But it’s not just Ireland who could be enjoying the sweet taste of victory in March.

Indeed, you have the chance to prove you’re the next Joe Schmidt, Warren Gatland or Eddie Jones by taking part in the Irish Times Fantasy Rugby competition.

With a €100 million budget, and 15 players to pick, deciding who makes it into your winning XV isn’t straight forward.

So here, we’ve attempted to pick a side which could lead you to Fantasy Rugby glory - good luck!

15 Liam Williams - Wales. €5.7m (2018 - N/A)

Leigh Halfpenny’s ongoing absence with a head injury means Williams is set to be Warren Gatland’s first choice fullback. The Saracens 15 is a running threat from deep with an eye for the try line.

14 Jonny May - England. €7.1m (2018 - 144 points)

May was an ever-present for England in last year’s tournament, playing everyminute of the tournament and scoring four tries to boot. He was the outside back with the second-highest points tally in 2018.

13 Gaël Fickou - France. €5.4m (2018 - N/A)

Fickou has been a player reborn since leaving Toulouse for Stade Francais last summer. He has scored seven tries in the Top14 so far this season and at the price could prove a bargain.

Gael Fickou has been rejuvenated since his summer move to Stade Francais. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Gael Fickou has been rejuvenated since his summer move to Stade Francais. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

12 Bundee Aki - Ireland. €6.8m (2018 - 101 points)

Competition in Irleand’s midfield is fierce but Bundee Aki is likely to start at 12 against England. A tireless carrier and tackler he is also a try threat, crossing the whitewash twice last year.

11 Jacob Stockdale - Ireland. €7.1m (2018 - 181 points)

Last year’s highest-points scorer is only getting better, and he now has a staggering 12 tries in 13 Test matches. He scored seven tries in the 2018 tournament - you can’t leave him out.

10 Owen Farrell - England. €8m (2018 - 142 points)

The most expensive player in the tournament alongside Johnny Sexton, Farrell gets the nod simply because he’s likely to play more minutes than the irish 10. Makes a huge amount of tackles and kicks a lot of points.

Owen Farrell is the most expensive player in the game alongside Johnny Sexton. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Owen Farrell is the most expensive player in the game alongside Johnny Sexton. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

9 Greig Laidlaw - Scotland. €6.2m (2018 - 97 points)

A steady presence at scrumhalf, Laidlaw gets the nod on account of his goal-kicking. With Scotland’s exciting backline, there could be a lot of tries to convert.

Prop Demba Bamba could be a bolter for the French side, after being named in their training squad. Bryan Keane/Inpho
Prop Demba Bamba could be a bolter for the French side, after being named in their training squad. Bryan Keane/Inpho

1 Demba Bamba - France. €4.4m (2018 - N/A)

A bolter for the side, Bamba has only made one appearance for France. However, should the 20-year-old get chances off the bench his devastating running and speed around the park could be fruitful.

2 Leonardo Ghiraldini - Italy. €5.3m (2018 - 150 points, 2nd highest)

The Italian hooker was the second-highest points scorer in last year’s competition, largely on account of the massive 60 tackles he made - an average of 12 per game.

Italian hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was last year’s second-highest points scorer. Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho
Italian hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini was last year’s second-highest points scorer. Photograph: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

3 Tadhg Furlong - Ireland. €6.5m (2018 - 82 points)

Furlong’s all round game - particularly his tackling, running and offloading ability, make him a shoo-in for this side.

Tadhg Furlong’s all-round game makes him an ideal choice at prop. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Tadhg Furlong’s all-round game makes him an ideal choice at prop. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

4 Alun Wyn Jones - Wales. €7.2m (2018 - 96 points)

The Welsh warhorse also made 60 tackles in last year’s tournament, and is a thorn in the opposition’s side at the lineout.

5 Jonny Gray - Scotland. €6.8m (2018 - 124 points)

Jonny Gray made an astoshing 100 tackles in the 2018 Six Nations - 20 clear of second-placed Hamish Watson.

6 Peter O’Mahony - €7.2m (2018 - 69 points)

Tackling, turnovers and pilfering the oppositions lineouts earn the Munster backrow his place in the XV.

7 Josh Navidi - Wales. €5.9m (2018 - 109 points) 75

Josh Navidi in action for Wales against Ireland last year. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Josh Navidi in action for Wales against Ireland last year. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Navidi made 75 tackles last year and is also an athletic ball carrier. Injuries in the Welsh backrow mean he is a likely starter in the opener at the Stade de France.

8 Sergio Parisse - Italy. €6.8m (2018 - 99 points)

This could be Parisse’s final Six Nations, but he not just a sentimental pick. His tackling, carrying and offloading ability all make him dangerous even 35-year-old.

Overall cost: €96.4m

How the scoring works:

Playing 1 - 60 minutes : 1 point
Playing more than 61 minutes: 2
For each try scored (any position): 10
For each try assist: 5
For each conversion: 2
For each conversion miss: -1
For each penalty goal: 3
For each penalty goal miss: -1
For each drop goal: 4
For each drop goal miss: -1
Yellow card: -3
Red card: -5
Turnover: 3
For each lineout steal on opposition throw: 4
For each tackle made by a prop or a hooker: 2
For each tackle made by all other positions: 1
For each tackle missed (all positions): -1
For each tackle broken: 2
For each effective offload: 4
For each ineffective offload: 2
For each linebreak : 5
For each linebreak created: 3
For each error: -2

You can sign up to The Irish Times Fantasy Rugby here.

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