This year’s Rugby World Cup comes with a fantasy game designed to push rugby union fandom towards a new frontier. Here’s how it works, and how to beat your mates.
How to select players
The tournament’s official game gives you a budget of 100 credits to assemble a team of 15 players comprising two props, a hooker, two locks, three back-rowers, a scrum-half, a fly-half, two centres and three outside backs. Players have been assigned varying prices.
A designated captain counts for double in any given match and there are three ‘boosters’, including ‘super kicker’ and ‘defensive king’. Transfers are unlimited, presumably to mitigate injuries.
How to score points
The fantasy game scoring system uses metrics such as tackles, running metres, interceptions, line-out steals, offloads and even line-break assists – essentially passes that send a team-mate into space. Missed tackles, penalties and knock-ons are just three ways to lose points.
Stats Perform are the data providers, and greater detail fuels the single biggest reason to play fantasy in the first place: vindication. What could be better, or make you smugger, than tangible evidence of your superior knowledge when hunches are backed up by performances on the pitch, especially if you feel you have unearthed a relatively obscure or untapped talent?
Whereas the simplicity of FPL scoring suits football and will have contributed to its immense growth, a detailed points system for the Rugby World Cup game should also enhance understanding and awareness. Not only will big names earn recognition for skills that go under the radar, but observers had additional incentive to familiarise themselves with emerging nations and monitor those players.
Join Telegraph Rugby’s fantasy league
For anyone wishing to upstage the Telegraph writers – and judging by comments on our recent Top 100 series, that might be an attractive proposition – we have set up a league for the World Cup with the access code E3XYNW6O.
Now for the knockouts
Off-setting the obvious excitement, there is a sadness as the knockouts arrive because we must say goodbye to a cohort of players. As far as fantasy goes, it has been particularly galling to bid farewell to heavy scorers like Ben Tameifuna, Darcy Graham and Nicolas Martins. The game provides a subtle, respectful aeroplane icon to outline who has gone home.
Boosters are replenished for the knockout rounds – I forgot to use one over the quarter-finals, which was dumb – and the salary cap is increased. You are also allowed a greater number of players per team. At the semi-final stage, that limit rises to five.
The best players thrive at the business end of tournaments and, often, they speak about sticking to gameplans. I have already wobbled by committing the cardinal error of trying to be too clever. Damian Willemse was my fly-half for the quarter-final and returned just three points… although, if you ask me, he should have had a big bonus for assembling a scrum after taking a mark against France.
Back your knowledge…
… because it’s more satisfying when it comes off. I was doubly happy with the 100-point haul of Cameron Roigard (seven credits) against Namibia in the pool stages, because I was aware of the New Zealand rookie’s prolific form for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby earlier this year. Leicester Fainga’anuku (seven credits, 91 points), bound for Toulon after emerging with the Crusaders, is renowned for roaming off his wing and hunting touches, which proved useful.
Tackle-breakers and turnover masters key
Aside from tries (15 points) and assists (9 points), turnovers (4 points), interceptions (5 points), line-out steals (5 points) and line-breaks (7 points) are big winners. Defenders beaten (2 points) can add up too.
Stay on top of your selections
An obvious one, but team announcements can come thick and fast. Unlimited transfers mean you really should have 15 players actually playing. Be wary that some, such as England hooker Jamie George (10 credits) and most captains, are more likely to last close to 80 minutes.
Be bold with boosters
Further to the ‘captain’ chip, which doubles the points of a chosen player, there are three further boosters in this game. ‘Triple captain’ does the obvious, ‘defensive king’ doubles points for tackles and turnovers and ‘super kicker’ increases the return for shots at goal. They were regenerated for the knockout rounds. Let them rip, because they are no use if left over.
Keep going until the end
Those who picked Will Jordan for the semi-final round (happily I triple-captained the All Blacks sharpshooter) will have been very grateful for a 106-point hail and there is scope to climb up your leagues one more time over the last weekend, comprising the third-place play-off and, of course, the final.
There is typically wholesale rotation for the former, while the decider between South Africa and New Zealand, with plenty of rain forecast for Paris this week, could be a close kick-fest. Act accordingly. It might be a prudent time to deploy your defensive boosters.