Ever wondered what it would be like to manage The Lions or The Barbarians? To become an Ian McGeechan or a Clive Woodward? To be able to pick the best rugby players in the World in their chosen positions? Sadly, most of us will never get that chance. The closest we can get is partaking in a bit of fantasy rugby…
If you’ve never played fantasy rugby you really should. It gives you the opportunity to test your rugby knowledge against people you know and people you don’t. The most popular fantasy rugby competition is run by ESPNscrum. Not only does it allow you to compete against everyone else taking part ( I came 313 out of 21897) but also in mini leagues against friends, work colleagues, rugby clubs etc. For this year’s Autumn Internationals I joined the Intheloose mini league. I was also lucky enough to win it! (chased all the way by Debbie Knight)
1. Know whose playing
Fantasy points are scored in accordance with actual points so look out for mismatches in fixtures. The obvious one this Autumn was Scotland versus Japan. The simple formula? Backs score more tries + Scotland playing Japan = fill your team with Scottish backs. Now, of course, this is not always the case as Australia proved in Ireland but perceived stronger teams will usually score more points against perceived weaker ones.
2. Know your points scorers
Most points are scored by try scorers so pack your team with them. Does a certain teams left winger score more than their right? Which team has the most attacking full back? Which teams back row always seem to cross the white line? If you watch a lot of rugby you start to get a feel for these sorts of things.
Points are also scored for assists, the last player to pass to the try scorer. So always look to pick an outside rather than inside center. Statistically they set up more tries than anyone else.
And finally, make sure you have a kicker in form. Points are scored for conversations, penalties and drop goals so always look to pick the guy with the highest success rate.
3. Know your co-commentators
This may seem an odd one but points are also awarded to the Man of the Match. This is always chosen by the co-commentator and believe it or not some of them are biased, often giving it to their favourite player!
4. Know your Captains
Two reasons for this. Firstly, more points are awarded if a player plays the full eighty minutes and very few Captains get taken off for anything other than injury. Secondly, see above. You’d be amazed how many captains get awarded the Man of the Match. Fill your team with them
5. Mind Games
The great thing about ESPNscrum is that every mini league has their own chat box for all participating managers. So get into their minds, psyche them out. Tweet them how confident you are of beating them. It all adds to the fun!
It doesn’t matter what you do if you don’t have some of this. What’s the point of looking up kicker percentages if he gets injured after five minutes? Or the try fest you were hoping for is played in a monsoon? Like any game luck plays a big part so hope she’s on your side for that eighty minutes.
Be warned, if you do decide to play, it will take over your life while your watching the games. You will find yourself shouting at the TV during the Italy Argentina game for someone to pass the ball to your player to score or re-winding it several times to see who it was that got that last try scoring pass away. And if you don’t agree with the Man of the Match decision? well, don’t get me started!
But, if all this sounds like fun, and now I’ve given away all my secrets, come and find us during the Six Nations when we will be doing it all over again. You never know, you might even win it…