Top fantasy performers to pick at the Rugby World Cup in Japan
With the World Cup looming and our little elves toiling away day and night on The Rugby Magazine's fantasy engine for the tournament in Japan, here's a look at some of the top Premiership and Super Rugby stars that could take your fantasy side over the line in Japan.
Eagle-eyed fantasy managers are keeping their eyes fixed on the progress of a few lesser-known stars to the casual rugby fans' that find themselves drawn in by the intoxicating excitement of a Rugby World Cup. Can anyone stop the All Blacks? Will a Tier Two nation cause an upset to rival the Brave Blossoms' upturning of the Springboks in Brighton? Who knows. But while you speculate, The Rugby Magazine takes a look at a few men that impressed immensely during their club campaigns this year.
Plying his trade for the Brumbies in Australia, Fainga’a has become a frontrunner for many to start for the Wallabies, filling the hole left vacant by former Australian captain Stephen Moore and now Leicester hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau; the latter of whom is currently recovering from a calf injury.
Fainga’a benefitted hugely from the Brumbies’ pack this year, scoring the second most tries for the season behind Crusaders wing Sevu Reece and equal with Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape.
- Points: 523
- Tries: 12
- Metres: 219
- Clean breaks: 9
- Lineouts won: 170
We’ll have to wait until the start of the Rugby Championship to see just how impressed Australia boss Michael Cheika has been with Fainga’a’s try-scoring antics, with a disappointing conversion rate the lineout during a semi-final Super Rugby defeat to the Jaguares leaving the 24-year-old with a disappointing last impression heading into the international window.
Another year, another storming season for TJ. The Wellington native scored more points than anyone else over the course of the Super Rugby season, pipping Fainga’a to the top spot by just ten points.
- Points: 533
- Tries: 6
- Metres: 415
- Try assists: 5
- Clean breaks: 17
- Defenders beaten: 25
While TJ looks set to continue playing second fiddle to Aaron Smith for the All Blacks, there are plenty of points to be had by playing him from the bench. The 27-year-old is probably the most important of Steve Hansen’s impact players, and has a tendency to rack up points during the final stages scoring eleven tries for his country as things stand, currently sitting even on both 55 points and 55 caps.
Your bench players may only get half the points they may have when starting but in TJ’s case that could easily turn out to be more than many starting scrum-halves. Equally, there is plenty of scope for starts against Italy, Namibia and Canada.
Held in the highest regards by his Bristol teammates, Vui was only the eleventh-highest scoring player over the course of the Premiership season, but is guaranteed a starting role for Samoa, getting through work like a mother of ten on a school run.
- Points: 527
- Metres: 284
- Tackles: 190 (11 missed)
- Lineouts won: 70
- Defenders beaten: 23
In a pool with Ireland, Scotland, hosts Japan and Russia, Vui will have plenty of opportunities to flaunt his attacking skillset and rack up the hard yards.
Jacobus Meyer Reinach, what season it’s been for this popular Springbok halfback. The former Sharks man turned Northampton Saints darling just cannot stop scoring. Reinach scored more points than any other player this season across both competitions, pipping fellow scrum-half Perenara by an impressive 210 points.
- Points: 743 ?
- Minutes: 1398
- Tries: 12
- Clean breaks: 31
- Defenders beaten: 51
The joint top try scorer for the 2018/19 Premiership season, alongside Sale and England wing Denny Solomona, has fought his way back into the Springbok fold whilst flogging his wares overseas. Much like Faf de Klerk, Reinach has proven himself both one of the most potent attacking scrumhalves in the world, and a more than competent game manager.
He’ll more than likely be on the bench for the Springboks, but like Perenara, Reinach could be a font of fantasy points from the 21 jersey and starting in lesser pool games.
They might not have headed up the scoreboards this season, but here are two wildcards that could prove serious assets for your fantasy team in Japan with impressive points-per-80 tallies.
Exeter and Scotland second row/flanker Sam Skinner took a supercharged leap from irregular Premiership starter to Scotland star late last year, claiming a man of the match performance on debut against Fiji.
- Points: 270
- Minutes: 529
- Metres: 127
- Turnovers won: 6
- Lineouts stolen: 5
In a pool with Ireland, Japan, Russia and Samoa, Skinner's athletism in the row or lineout-stealing, ball-pilfering, step happy exploits on the blindside could be an extremely attractive set of skills for Scotland boss Gregor Townsend. And more importantly, to your fantasy team. Come on Gregor, we want big point scorers!
Liam Squire's decision to withdraw himself from the All Blacks' Rugby Championship squad over fitness concerns and Scott Barrett's recent injury leaves significant question marks over New Zealand's six jersey. At an average of 35.16 points per 80 minutes in Super Rugby this year, the Highlanders' Shannon Frizell has a shot at making Jerome Kaino's old jersey his own.
- Points: 298
- Minutes: 678
- Defenders beaten: 20
- Metres run: 226
- Tries: 6
Frizell brings more of an offensive edge than that of Squire or Barrett, while still offering himself as an option at the lineout and a hefty shoulder in defence. The 25-year-old has suffered an injury-sodden period since making a splash on the Test scene with the All Blacks, but the opportunity to make his mark in a starting All Blacks backrow heading into a World Cup is there for the taking.
There you have it, six men that could star for your side in Japan in a few months time. Be sure to keep an eye on them and other potential points gold mines during the World Cup warmups and Rugy Championship games over the next few months.
Rugby World Cup, The Scout, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Bristol Bears, Brumbies, Exeter Chiefs, Highlanders, Hurricanes, Northampton Saints
Written by: Alistair Stokes
Follow: @alistokesrugby · @therugbymag