For the first time there is no British/Irish head coach involved in the International Championship. England are managed by an Australian, the Celtic fringe relies on New Zealanders and the Continental coaches will speak with French accents.
So, will the Home Unions build teams in the image of the All Blacks and Wallabies, the 2015 RWC Finalists? Will there be fresh impetus from the management in France and Italy? More importantly, how will it all impact upon your Fantasy Rugby selections?
The past, as the financial experts say, is no indicator to future performance, but here are some pointers from last year’s competition.
England duo George Ford (top kicker) and Jonathan Joseph (most tries) defied the old adage that lightning never strikes twice, consistently piling up fantasy points with shining displays to finish as the most valuable players.
England, in fact, supplied the main axis of the all-star Fantasy XV, scrum-half Ben Youngs collecting a hatful of Fantasy points with three tries and two Man of the Match (MoM) awards as linkman between Ford and Billy Vunipola, the best of the No.8s.
Vunipola shared back-row honours with Sean O’Brien who impressed in Ireland’s Championship-clincher against Scotland on the final weekend to become 2015’s most valuable fantasy flanker despite missing the season’s opening weekend.
Ireland were champions on points difference from England and Wales and, all told, these three nations supplied 11 of last year’s best fantasy side.
Paul O’Connell featured at lock but now follows Brian O’Driscoll into retirement. Will his replacement make the same impact as O’Driscoll’s successor, Robbie Henshaw, did? Helped by a MoM performance against England, the young centre stormed into the 2015 élite.
Only one place kicker (for penalties and conversions) can be nominated in your ESPN Fantasy Ruby team. These were the top four place-kickers in last season’s Six Nations:
George Ford (Eng) – 25 successful kicks
Leigh Halfpenny (Wal) – 21
Jonny Sexton (Ire) – 21
Greig Laidlaw (Sco) – 15
Wales coach Warren Gatland, who says his side will refine their tactical approach this season, also had four members in the team of all the talents. They are without Leigh Halfpenny, last season’s best full-back, but Alun-Wyn Jones, George North and skipper Sam Warburton are contenders again in the second-row, outside-backs and back-rows.
Fantasy points were hardest to accumulate in the front-rows, where substitutions were common, and it was the only unit that didn’t generate a MoM bonus.
Guilhem Guirado, last year’s top hooker, captains Guy Novès’s new French squad and that might guarantee him a few full 80-minute fantasy tariffs, but top prop Vincent Debaty is absent. So too is Euan Murray, the other leading prop, who has retired.
He was the only Scot in the best XV last year, but empowered by Vern Cotter’s coaching philosophy Scotland were the most improved European nation at RWC 2015 which augurs well for their Six Nations.
Giovanbattista Venditti, the only Italian to make the fantasy side last year, completed the XV, but doesn’t feature in Jacques Brunel’s 2016 reckoning.
Source Article from http://espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/14684800/fantasy-rugby-have-picked-last-year-six-nations
Fantasy Rugby: Who should you have picked last year?
ESPN.com – RUGBY