The Six Nations is fast approaching so it’s time to pick your fantasy team. Whether you’re a hardcore egg chaser, a rugby novice, or just looking to get an edge on the overly keen work colleague who forced you into this, this blog should hopefully give you some ideas.
Though a year is a long time in sport, and lots of rugby has been played since last year’s tournament, this piece aims to give you an idea of who to pick for your 2019 Six Nations fantasy league based on last year’s performance data.
All of this data has been visualized using QlikView, a popular business intelligence (BI) tool.
The ESPN Six Nations fantasy league rules and scoring system have been used to determine player’s fantasy points.
Click here to learn the rules of the game.
Some stats count more towards fantasy points than others. A team’s real life performance is not directly proportional to their fantasy league performance. We can see below that Ireland, who won a grand slam, did top the fantasy rugby table but France, who came 4th in the competition, got the fewest fantasy points.
You must select your first fantasy team of the tournament before the tournament has actually kicked off. It can be difficult to determine which players are flying high and which are looking for some form. You’ll be able to make 3 transfers every week to account for injury and form.
To get started the fantasy points scored in last year’s tournament have been calculated and shown in the charts below:
The below visualization illustrates the best 15 you could have picked if you were to make no transfers. This is a pretty good place to start for picking your 2019 team.
Points gained for starts and substitutions have not been factored in, the idea is to show the quality of the players when they are on the field. Whether a player is starting, on the bench or playing at all - these shouldn't impact your selection massively!
It may seem obvious, but always pick players who are actually playing. A player may have picked up an injury or fallen out of favour with the coach, so you get no points for players that aren't playing. For instance, Sam Simmonds is unlikely to feature in this year’s Six Nations even though he was a top performer last year.
It is best to check the team before you select your team each week. The teams have usually been posted on the BBC website by on the Thursday afternoon before the game.
It’s safer to pick a player who’s starting a game rather than a sub (or ‘finisher’ for England fans) as firstly, you get an additional point for players named to start, and secondly, they tend to have more time to rack up fantasy points. On the other hand, ‘super-subs’ can sometimes have a greater impact on the game if they’re brought on late to run riot against tired defences. It can be a risk worth taking.
Kicking for points has always been incredibly important in international rugby, especially in the northern hemisphere. In fantasy teams, you must pick a designated kicker who will gather points by successfully slotting conversions and penalties. There isn’t an advantage of having multiple place kickers on the field as only one player will receive points for them.
So, do you prioritise a player's kicking ability or a kicker's playing ability?
From the chart below, we can see Sexton, Machenaud, Halfpenny and Laidlaw are at the top for kicking points. Though, when you add the points these kickers got from other activities on the field, these players drop down the rankings.
Farrell’s 12 point yield ontop of the other points scored makes him the best option for kicker as he already features in the side. You don’t have to remove anyone to make room for players scoring less around the field such as: Laidlaw or Halfpenny. Swapping one of these players in and making them kicker would result in lower points overall.
For example: Keeping Murray on and making Farrell your kicker results in 73 points. Replacing Murray for Laidlaw and making Laidlaw kicker means that the Farrell and Laidlaw combo would only score 66 points.
As mentioned above, the team selected is the best team across the whole tournament, but by swapping players in and out week to week you can really generate some big scores.
For instance, Sam Simmonds has been selected in our base team and he only played in the first two games due to injury. By swapping him out after his injury for someone like CJ Stander, you’d continue to build points.
Italy have finished last 13 times out of 19 attempts in the 6 nations. Unfortunately, since they joined the tournament in 2000, they have failed to reach the heights of the other 5 teams.
When it comes to fantasy rugby I would always endorse preying on the weak! To maximise your fantasy points, load your team with players who will be playing against Italy that week.
As you can see from the visualizations, all the home nations scored most of their fantasy points against Italy. Overall, most fantasy points are scored against the Italians.
In the Six Nations, home advantage is huge - this can be seen with Ireland, Wales, France and Scotland winning all their home games. This however doesn’t seem to make as significant of a difference to the fantasy points. The second column, with the bolder colour, for each country is the average points scored at home. According to the chart below, only half the teams seem to score more points at home per game than away.
So what are my top tips for picking your six nations fantasy team for 2019?
Players can’t score points if they’re not playing. Check who is playing each week to maximise points.
You shouldn’t typically pick a player just for kicking stats. Think of potential points overall, not just those kicked.
Load your team with players playing Italy that week. Italy concede the most fantasy points so their opposition are likely to earn more points.
If you’re unsure of a player’s form, it is fine to look at a player's reputation and fall on last year’s stats.