Six Nations Fantasy Rugby: Week five preview

You could forgive Eddie Jones for thinking that coaching England’s rugby team is easy. His side’s five-star performance against Scotland was their 18th successive win since 2015 and equalled New Zealand’s world record for Tier One nations.

There were easy pickings, too, for Fantasy managers choosing Englishmen in their team last weekend. Four of Saturday’s England squad — including Danny Care and Billy Vunipola with eye-catching cameo performances off the bench — finished among the top ten performers and Jonathan Joseph, no stranger to these columns, was the weekend’s most valuable player with 26 points.

England’s next highest achiever was Owen Farrell. His kicking had been disrupted by blustery conditions at Twickenham a fortnight earlier against Italy, but he was back in the groove against Scotland and weighed in with eleven successful kicks from twelve attempts.

Eddie Jones’ England are vying to become the first team of the Six Nations era to complete successive Grand Slams in week five. David Rogers – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

He currently sits third behind CJ Stander and Leigh Halfpenny on the overall Fantasy ratings. The inside-centre, who looks a shoo-in for the position in the Lions Test fifteen this summer, was the best place-kicker on a weekend which overall yielded 31 successful goal kicks from 34 attempts.

Kickers also caught the eye in Rome where France’s comfortable win was notable for Camille Lopez’s immaculate 8/8 return. Carlo Canna, Italy’s most consistent place-kicker since Diego Dominguez retired, chipped in with three goal kicks from four attempts in a match in which the young French scrum-half, Baptiste Serin, collected eleven Fantasy points. The Bordeaux-Bègles No. 9 won a well-deserved man-of-the-match reward for his try assist and sparkling running.

Wales had opened Act Four of the Six Nations with a Friday-night fixture against Ireland, for whom Jonny Sexton (maintaining his 100 percent kicking record in this year’s tournament) and his understudy Paddy Jackson shared three goals. The stand-out Fantasy player in Cardiff, however, was George North. He was the Principality’s most valuable performer on the night with two tries and a thundering 50-metre run which boosted his Fantasy count for the evening to 14 points. North is one of eight players with three tries to his name in this season’s competition.

For the second year running England have won the Six Nations with a game to spare but, like last year in Paris, they will want to emphasise their dominance of the tournament by completing a clean sweep of victories in Dublin.

Another win will bring them the first back-to-back Grand Slams in Six Nations history and their first double since Will Carling’s teams performed the feat in the 1991 and 1992 Five Nations.

Even so, there is still plenty to play for in Fantasy terms this weekend, though all three fixtures look pretty tight calls. Super Saturday kicks off at Murrayfield where Scotland should have the edge against Italy.

Fantasy managers might consider selecting Finn Russell as their goal-kicker. Scotland’s fly-half has notched up a ten-goal streak since inexplicably missing that conversion in front of the posts in Paris last month. He landed seven kicks against Wales and added three more at Twickenham on Saturday.

France host Wales in Paris. After losing to Scotland, Rob Howley kept his match-day 23 intact for the Irish match. Wales desperately need ranking points to cement their place among the top eight and enter the draw for the 2019 World Cup pools as one of the major seeds. So expect the squad which handsomely redeemed itself against Ireland to travel to Paris where there promises to be an intriguing back-row battle at the breakdowns with Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, who were both immense against Ireland, facing France’s Fantasy front-runners, Louis Picamoles and Kevin Gourdon.

What we’ve learnt

Billy Vunipola is back firing on all cyclinders

It is hard to envisage Eddie Jones making changes from the side which accomplished such a stylish win over Scotland, though Billy Vunipola’s turbo-charged performance off the bench will have been noted. Against Scotland he scored a try soon after coming on and assisted one of Danny Care’s two scores. All told Vunipola earned a dozen Fantasy points — not bad considering he was only on the pitch for 29 minutes.

Scrum-half is the position that picks up most man-of-the-match awards

Conor Murray, Rhys Webb and Baptiste Serin have collected three of the awards to date. France have dominated the back-row prize-winners with flanker Kevin Gourdon (against Scotland) and No. 8 Louis Picamoles (against England) joining Ireland’s CJ Stander as recipients, and Joe Launchbury (twice man-of-the-match this season) has been the second-row’s main man. Finn Russell (outside-half), Jonathan Joseph (centre), and Leigh Halfpenny and Stuart Hogg (back three) are the others who have achieved five Fantasy points in this way.

The front-rows are the unsung Fantasy heroes

It will be seen that there have been no man-of-the-match cigars for the props or hookers yet. Dan Cole, Rabah Slimani and Gordon Reid are top of the props having each scored a try this season, but keep an eye out for French captain Guilhem Guirado this weekend. The hooker finished in our teams of the season in both the 2015 and 2016 editions of Fantasy and is coming up fast on the rails only four points behind Reid and Slimani in this year’s game.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18911971/six-nations-fantasy-rugby-pick-week-5
Six Nations Fantasy Rugby: Week five preview
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