Martin Bayfield on fantasy rugby captains, Wales, Alun Wyn Jones and England's engine room
Atop the 190m tall BT Tower in London, The Rugby Magazine chatted to a rather recognizable figure of rivalling stature, relatively speaking, ahead of the ninth edition of the rugby’s zenithian event, the Rugby World Cup. Former England lock, BT Sport presenter and Harry Potter stand-in Martin Bayfield talks fantasy captains, the team he’s most eager to watch in Japan and second rows.
For those unaware, The Rugby Magazine runs the most sophisticated fantasy rugby engine on the market, and in little over two months time, it’s time to once again delve into the wondrous World Cup fever – this year, with a Japanese flavour. We asked Martin Bayfield who he would pick as his fantasy rugby captain (the one player that would earn double figures for donning the skipper’s armband), who he is most excited to see in Japan and his own thoughts on his old position, England’s second row.
Given that fact that points per metre and per offload are awarded in higher values the lower the number on the back of a player’s jersey (thus balancing out the attacking ratio of your average tighthead prop and winger) Bayfield nominated one of England’s uncharacteristically mobile front row as his fantasy team’s leading man.
Given that they get double points, who would you make your World Cup fantasy captain?
“That’s interesting. Do you go for Mako Vunipola who’s going to make some big yardage? But then he’s coming back from injury. Umm, um-um-um-um. Oh my goodness me, you’ve put me on the spot now.
“I am going to go for… Kyle Sinckler. Yeah, Kyle Sinckler, I think he’ll pick up a few tries, but he’s going to make serious yards, make big yardage.
“I’m not sure I’d want him as my actual captain, but this is fantasy, it’s ok, we’ll have him as captain.”
Who are you keeping your eye on this year?
“Wales, definitely Wales. The reason I say that is because we’ve got this 18-match winning streak, this barrier that no one seems to get past, and wales are close to that. If they win every game now and win the World Cup they’ll smash it. But then there’s a reason why no one has done it.
“So I’m almost thinking, for England, I hope they lose a pre-season game, then they reset the clock and off they go again.
“I’m fascinated to see how Wales do. I just think they’ve got a really good chance of upsetting a few people.”
As a fellow second row, how important is Alun Wyn Jones to Wales?
“Obviously, our paths never crossed, thank goodness, he would have folded me up and put me in a box, I’m sure. I love Alun Wyn Jones. I love how grumpy he is, he’s just incredibly grumpy. But, I’ve met him a few times, wonderful man. He’s a warrior, an absolute warrior, and you need that.
“You look at a lot of the second rows now in modern rugby, they are incredible physical specimens. Brutally hard, high skill levels. In many ways, they’re the ones that carry the teams.
“So, you look at George Kruis now, who's playing the best rugby of his life. Maro [Itoje], Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, incredible. Alun Wyn Jones, remarkable player. You look at James Ryan in the Ireland team, very, very fine player. Brodie Rettalick, Sam Whitelock, Eben Etzebeth. All these guys, they are just class, class players, but they’re big and they’re strong and they’re dynamic. Everything you’d want to have an amalgamation of. They’ve got high skill levels as well.
“I realise I am championing the second rows, but I think we are looking at a golden age of lock forwards, I really do.”
Who would you start for your old team in the second row?
“I would start with Itoje and Kruis, I would. I think the backrow has got the size and pace that Itoje would add to, but I think you keep Itoje in the second row. Then it gives you the option to move him into the backrow and bring Courtney Lawes on, bring Joe Launchbury on if you need to. But, in a World Cup, I think you keep guys in the areas they excel, and that’s where he absolutely excels.”
There you have it, Bayfs top tip for your Rugby World Cup fantasy team is to make Kyle Sinckler your captain, while a pre-tournament defeat in the warm-up games for the Welsh could be key for any side that meets Warren Gatland’s charges in the pool or knockout stages and his final thoughts on England’s engine room.
In our game, you don't build a team of 15 or 23 players - as with the nations playing in the World Cup, each goes into the tourney with a squad of players from which they pick their starting team, and so can you. With a maximum squad of 35 though, who do you choose?
Do you pick a squad based on reputation, or do you put your faith in the unknown wonderkid? Do you choose a finisher on the wing, or a man who makes the metres? These are the decisions that could make or break your season.
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