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12:00 PM GMT
With close to 200 names to pick from, settling on 15 of the best players across multiple positions for your ESPN Fantasy Rugby team can be quite the task. Luckily, were here to help. Here are at least three star players from each position that may help you claim bragging rights over your mates.
Stuart HoggFew things in rugby are quite as exciting as Hogg in full flight. Hes the near-perfect attacking fullback. Hell gain plenty of metres, break open defences and cross a fair few trylines. Hes pretty solid in defence, too, and has a howitzer boot for good measure.
A guaranteed starter when fit, Williams has every chance of being Wales top try-scorer in the Six Nations this year, such is his skill to beat a defender on attack. Arguably better at fullback than out on the wing, hell likely give up the 15 shirt to the kicking certainty that is Leigh Halfpenny, assuming the latter has recovered from concussion.
When a player scores seven tries in his debut Six Nations campaign, you take notice. When he adds to his tally with a history-making touchdown against New Zealand in November, you really take notice. When he then scores a blistering solo effort for Ulster to beat Racing in the Champions Cup, you nod sagely to yourself, pleased that youve been paying attention and then you quietly mark him down on your Fantasy Rugby longlist.
Moving to Stade Francais from Toulouse has given Fickou a whole new lease of life. Whether he starts in midfield, or out on the wing, expect the Frenchman with the flying feet of Cheslin Kolbe to make a Fantasy Rugby point-scoring impact.
Campagnaro was injured for last years Six Nations and how Italy missed him. Coach Conor OShea wasted no time naming the talented midfield man in his squad following his move to Wasps on a short-term deal after an injury-hit spell at Exeter. OShea is a shrewd operator you may be wise to follow his lead.
Joe Schmidt has midfield riches to choose from, with Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell all fighting for places, but it was the Connacht centre who was nearly ever-present on Irelands teamsheets last season, starting 10 internationals in 2018. Expect, at the start of this World Cup year, Schmidt to stick to the tried and trusted
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Who wouldnt want the World Rugby Mens Player of the Year on their team? There is virtually nothing Sexton cannot do as a 10 hed make a decent attempt at flying if Joe Schmidt asked. And his kicking boot is as good as it gets. The only downside? Almost everyone will pick him.
Russell was hardly jaded when he left Glasgow for the outskirts of Paris in the summer, but he has taken to the early season responsibility of filling Dan Carters boots at Top 14 side Racing 92 like well, like the immensely talented and utterly unpredictable fly-half he is.
Hes not going to kick any penalties teammates Parra, Serin, Ramos and Ntamack will have that covered between them, but a rejuvenated Lopez will do all the other things you need of a 10 and he has rediscovered the knack of scoring a cheeky try or two.
You cant ignore the Italian 10, who picked up more points than anyone other player in ESPNs Fantasy Rugby tournament last year. When hes on, hes as good as many other fly-halves out there as he proved against Scotland a year ago.
Many consider Murray, recently back from injury, to be the best scrum-half in the world. And no wonder the Murray-Sexton hinge is always in control, and the Munster nine has a habit of finding the killer try-scoring pass that will accumulate fantasy points aplenty, and he should snipe his way to a few touchdowns himself.
As recently as 18 months ago, it looked like Parras international career was all over it isnt now. France need the cool head and experience of Clermonts little general, who hasnt played international rugby since 2015, but who has the game for all seasons. A more than useful kicker, too
Captain, kicker, scrum-half, coach Gregor Townsends general on the pitch. If ever a player was destined for Fantasy Rugby glory, its the Scot. Just remember what he did to France last year
Fantasy points from the front row are hard to come by, but Vunipola has proved an exception to the rule. Hes a regular starter who defends admirably and has been known to score the occasional try from close range.
2018 was a stunning year for the Irish tighthead. As tough as it gets in the scrum, hes also a force to be reckoned with at the breakdown and in the loose. Leinster and Ireland often use him as first receiver, such is his awareness, pace, passing and handling.
Were still waiting for a brave new French rugby world a year after Jacques Brunel replaced Guy Noves, but captain Guirado is a reliable performer who will want to lead from the front. After a summer break, he returned to international action with four tries in three November matches. Thats got to be worth a punt
England captain Owen Farrell has said he is recovering well from hand surgery and fully expects to be fit to face Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.
Johnny Sexton has joined Irelands Six Nations training squad in Portugal while France forward Bernard Le Roux has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury.
Nine forwards with a back at openside? Its a formation that could transform rugby, and the England head coach is weighing it up ahead of the World Cup.
The Scotland lock gets through a mountain of work, with his tackle count per game often smashing through the 20 barrier. Will also score valuable points with lineout steals.
Opponents have caught on to him now, but Itojes athleticism and versatility still makes him a fantasy favourite. A possible for England either at lock or in the back row, Itoje will provide those big defensive shifts that could sway any romantic ex-forwards tasked with choosing the man-of-the-match awards.
Another tackling, lineout-stealing machine, whose tireless workrate puts him up there with the likes of Gray and Itoje. Pops up with the odd try, too, which is always useful in the Fantasy Rugby stakes.
Whats left to say about the Munster No. 8? He scores tries, runs hard and straight, and gets through his fair share of defensive work. And he does it from the first whistle until the last.
Age may be wearying him, but the never-say-die No. 8 remains crucial to Conor OSheas plans for Italy. Knows his way to the try line and, injury permitting, is almost guaranteed score a healthy number of points, even if the Azzurri dont. Watch out for that volatile Latin temperament, though. Cards are not always far away when Parisses around.
Speaking of tireless. OMahony is the rock in all those hard places on a rugby pitch. He doesnt know the meaning of the phrase backward step, let alone how to take one. Hell make all those hard yards and hit his umpteenth tackle in the 80th minute as hard as he hit one in the first. For good measure, hell make a mess of opponents lineouts.
This article was originally published by Espn.co.uk. Read the original article here.