ESPN Fantasy Rugby: Who makes the Six Nations Team of the Tournament?

Rugby

The 2019 Six Nations is over. Wales are champions and claimed the Grand Slam but, remarkably, only one of their heroes made it into the Fantasy Rugby Team of the Tournament.

England racked up the most tries (24) to finish second, four points ahead of 2018 Grand Slam winners Ireland. Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup in a game so DRAMATIC it justifies the capital letters, yet finished fifth, below rudderless France. Italy’s losing tournament streak extended to 22 matches, but they genuinely look better every year under Conor O’Shea.

There are no more important questions for ESPN Fantasy Rugby managers other than, perhaps, personal reflections on selection choices.

Did you keep faith with early choices, big-name players, hoping they’d really come good? Because many didn’t, and just two of the top six most-selected players scored enough points to make the 2019 ESPN Fantasy Rugby Team of the Tournament.

Outside Backs

Jonny May

55 points, 61.7% owned

Six tries in the tournament — including that first-half hat trick in round two against France. Only Wales were able to stop him crossing the whitewash. May, who runs like he’s made entirely of knees, now has 14 tries in his last 15 internationals. Surely a near-certainty for the World Cup in Japan.

Gareth Anscombe

40 points, 1.7% owned

Yes, we know. Anscombe started four of the five matches this tournament at No. 10 and was a replacement against Italy. But he shifted to fullback in the last two, and that’s where the Fantasy Rugby points elves have picked him. More importantly, he proved more than a few doubters wrong over the five matches, winning a place in two teams of the week, and the player-of-the-match award on the glorious, rain-soaked Grand Slam-winning day in Cardiff.

Yoann Huget

36 points, 17.5% owned

Huget is one of those players who can play the part of the good, the bad, and the ugly in one match — as he did in the tournament-opening game between France and Wales; and again in the calamity at Twickenham, when he started at fullback. Put it this way: it’s a good job Fantasy Rugby doesn’t dock points for poor play. Still, four tries in the tournament isn’t a bad scoring return — and they are, mostly, why Huget makes the Team of the Tournament.

Centres

Owen Farrell

50 points, 80.6% owned

One of the ESPN Fantasy Rugby big-guns — playing out of his real-life Six Nations position here — who delivered the points for the four out of five managers who had him in their team. The dominant win in France was his big one, as it was for several England players. But, truth be told, there are now more questions over Farrell as captain after relatively anonymous performances in the loss to Wales and the draw against Scotland. It will be interesting to see if he keeps the dual role of captain and playmaker in future.

Henry Slade

37 points, 10% owned

Three tries in a pair of fine personal performances in the opening two matches of the 2019 Six Nations had pundits purring. Some even declared England’s outside centre slot filled for the forseeable future. Wales closed him down and, briefly, shut them up but he showed more creative glimpses when he regained his starting place for that crazy tournament-closing game against Scotland.

Fly-half

Finn Russell

40 points, 14.7% owned

Who knows what would have happened if Russell had been fit for Scotland’s game against France? Yes, it takes more than one player to win a game of rugby, but when the mood takes him, the Racing fly-half brings something no ordinary player can bring. His inspiration — reportedly triggered by “robust words” with coach Gregor Townsend in the dressing room at half-time — was all over Scotland’s second-half comeback against England.

Scrum-half

Conor Murray

35 points, 44.7% owned

Not Murray’s greatest Six Nations on the pitches of Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Wales. He’ll probably be among the first to admit that. But Fantasy Rugby points don’t take personal standards into account — and Murray scored plenty, notably against Italy, when he crossed the tryline and took over kicking duties.

Front Row

Jamie George

32 points, 21.5% owned

Eddie Jones has a problem. Hooker Jamie George did such a good job covering for injured captain Dylan Hartley throughout the tournament that it should, under normal circumstances, be difficult to send him back to the bench. He was solid in scrum and lineout, worked hard in defence, tackled effectively and carried well. So Hartley can’t come back. But captain and playmaker-in-chief Farrell did not always combine both his roles successfully. So, Hartley should come back. What to do, what to do…

Stuart McInally

30 points, 20.8% owned

Yes. Another hooker. Such are the rules of ESPN Fantasy Rugby that it’s possible to have two hookers in the front row. McInally was steady enough all tournament — but the ex-flanker really burst through with his charge down try against England that sparked the flickers of Scottish resistance in the Calcutta Cup comeback.

Allan Dell

23 points, 17.8% owned

The Scottish loosehead’s honest graft won him a slot in ESPN’s Fantasy Rugby Team of the Week three times. He even made it on the final week, when he wasn’t at his best. One of those quiet performers who most won’t notice — but those in the know will. That’s how he will like it.

Second Row

George Kruis

30 points, 18.8% owned

Kruis did all the things a coach would want from a good lock — a banker and nuisance at the lineout, depending on whose throw it was, and a trojan in defence. Scored a try against Italy, for good measure, and his chargedown that gave Brad Shields his second against the Azzurri probably should count as an assist … Fantasy Rugby managers who narrowly lost out on bragging rights as a result can claim this as an injustice.

James Ryan

23 points, 15.8% owned

It’s a cruel mistake to compare players to past legends, so we won’t. Ryan, however, cemented a burgeoning reputation as one of Ireland’s core players for years to come – it’s hard to believe he’s only 22. Interesting to note that England and Wales managed to keep him quiet.

Back Row

Tom Curry

39 points, 11.4% owned

What more is there to say? It’s easy to get carried away with the hype, but the 20-year-old really has performed all tournament as if he has several years more experience. Jones seemed to hold off selecting him despite the clamour for an age, but even he could not deny Curry any longer. An impressive tournament. And the potential for an impressive future.

Gregory Alldritt

32 points, 3.8% owned

It’s understandable why only 3.8 percent of Fantasy Rugby managers picked the 21-year-old from La Rochelle. He only started one match in the entire tournament — the last one against Italy — and barely got a look-in in the opening two games, when he racked up just two of the 32 Fantasy Rugby points he eventually scored. But two tries against Scotland, after coming on in the 69th minute, boosted his numbers, and two more solid performances — even in France’s Dublin nightmare — won him a place in the Team of the Tournament.

Abraham Steyn

32 points, 10.7% owned

As captain indomitable Sergio Parisse bids a final farewell to the Six Nations, so Italy officially unveil the player to take up his inspiration mantle. Steyn put in some serious shifts in another run of losing causes — scoring a try against Wales, and nearly getting another against France. Alongside Jake Polledri and Sebastian Negri, he looks set to make up one-third of a genuinely menacing Italy back row for several years to come.

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