Fantasy Rugby 2019: Who were the best performers from the 2018 Six Nations?

Ireland ruled the 2018 Six Nations -- but only two members of their team made ESPN Fantasy Rugby's top performers of last year's game. Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Ireland finished the 2018 Six Nations with the Grand Slam and had their 14th title in the bag with a game to spare. But as it turned out, that unbeaten run in which Joe Schmidt's side picked up three try-scoring bonus points as they ran in 20 tries in five matches, counted for little in the ESPN Fantasy Rugby stakes.

All six nations had at least one representative in the 2018 Fantasy team of the tournament. The big surprise was that only two players from that all-conquering Ireland side made the cut -- which goes to show that, sometimes, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The results of the past are not always a reliable marker for future performances, but here is ESPN's Fantasy Rugby team of the tournament for 2018.


15. Leigh Halfpenny -- 34 points, including selection as a kicker

The Welsh fullback started the tournament with his place in the Wales team under question but his two try performance -- which garnered 18 Fantasy Rugby points -- in the opening-day win over Scotland meant that his injury-enforced absence was cited as the main reason for Wales' defeat to England seven days later. He started only three games in 2018 but that Scotland performance, and his pinpoint kicking, earned him a place in the back three for the second year in a row. Shame he's a doubt for this year's opener against France in Paris.

14. Jonny May -- 42 points

It was a Six Nations to forget for England, who finished fifth with just two wins from five outings, but the Leicester wing was one of four Englishmen to make the 2018 ESPN Fantasy Rugby team of the tournament. He scored four tries, made two more, and also made at least 50 metres with ball in hand in all five appearances to rack up the points.

13. Hadleigh Parkes -- 35 points

Technically a 12, Parkes had made his Wales debut against South Africa at the end of the 2017 November Internationals but he carried on where he left off when the Six Nations kicked off. He provided an assist, made more than 50 metres and five tackles as Wales beat Scotland on the opening weekend. Week four was another bumper round as he scored a try, laid on another, and made more than 50 metres and five tackles to claim the man of the match award.

12. Owen Farrell -- 48 points, including selection as a kicker

The 2018 Six Nations was an odd tournament for Farrell, who was named on the teamsheet of more than 90 percent of those who took part in ESPN Fantasy Rugby last year, and who made the team of the tournament for the second year in a row despite concerns over his performances. He missed all three conversion attempts as England lost to Ireland 15-24 at Twickenham on the final weekend. But a try, four conversions and a penalty against Italy on the opening weekend, followed by another touchdown and three assists as the tournament progressed meant that he finished with one more Fantasy Rugby point than he managed in 2017. Farrell is still expected to start England's opener against Ireland despite requiring surgery on this thumb last week.

11. Jacob Stockdale -- 50 points

A record seven tries in his debut Six Nations. Enough said. Well, probably not. After a tryless three-pointer start in that tense opener against France, the Ulster man proved it's sometimes wise to stick rather than twist, as he racked up 13 Fantasy Rugby points in each of his next three matches before scoring a crucial try against England to help seal the Grand Slam. His form has continued since last year's tournament. He scored the decisive touchdown as Ireland beat the All Blacks at home for the first time in November.

10. Tomasso Allan -- 53 points, including selection as a kicker

Hands up if you had Allan in your team last year... Very few people did, so you're either feeling very smug right now or perhaps not quite recalling correctly. Either way, his two-try man-of-the-match performance against Scotland catapulted him into ESPN's Fantasy Rugby team of the tournament, as its highest points scorer.

9. Greig Laidlaw -- 45 points, including selection as a kicker

Ireland's Conor Murray may have been the scrum-half of choice for thousands of Fantasy Rugby players, but his 43-point tally was eclipsed by the veteran Scot, who went quietly about his work, picking up points as he kicked France out of the game on the second week of the tournament; and made two assists against Italy. Life in Clermont clearly suits the former Jedburgh lad.


1. Mako Vunipola -- 21 points

On the whole, front row work goes unheralded and unrewarded until the stats come in after the final whistle. So it was last year for the elder Vunipola brother, who quietly and busily tackled himself into the ground as England struggled to find their way on to the front foot. The prop made at least 10 tackles in all five games, including a mammoth 18 against Wales.

2. Guilhem Guirado -- 24 points

Despite playing only four matches, Guirado finished the championship as the top-scoring front row. The France captain was arguably his side's player of the tournament. A man-of-the-match display in an ultimately losing cause against Ireland earned him 13 points and made him difficult to beat in the fantasy stakes in a typically low-scoring position. After a summer off, he returned to France colours with four tries in three November internationals. If he could repeat that trick in this Six Nations, he would be a major asset to any Fantasy Rugby team.

3. Rory Best -- 20 points

Okay, a bit of a cheat here, given Best is a hooker, but the Ireland captain was the third-ranked front-row player of the 2018 tournament -- which may offer something of a selection policy hint for 2019 ESPN Fantasy Rugby managers. Five starts, a try against Italy and strong defensive performances against both Scotland and England were enough to get Ireland skipper Best into the team of the tournament. The Grand Slam and the Six Nations title would have felt pretty good, too.

4. Jonny Gray -- 28 points

Gray is noted as a rock in defence -- but a truly herculean effort in the 2018 Six Nations propelled him into ESPN's Fantasy Rugby team of the tournament. The Scotland lock started every game and made at least 20 tackles against England, Ireland and Italy. In the penultimate round against Ireland, Gray completed a scarcely believable 27 tackles.

5. Cory Hill -- 28 points

Anything Gray could do last season, Welsh lock Hill could do as well. Like Gray, he started every match of the 2018 Six Nations for Wales. While he could not quite match the tackling intensity of his Scottish counterpart, he racked up three tackling points against all of England, Ireland and France. For a party piece, the Dragons lock also scored a try -- for eight Fantasy Rugby points -- against Italy.

6. Aaron Shingler -- 33 points

Rested against Italy and on bench-warming duties for the tournament-ending match against France last year, Shingler's high tackle rate and lineout-stealing menace was still more than enough to make certain of his place in ESPN's Fantasy Six Nations team of the tournament.

7. John Barclay -- 30 points

You'd think it would take something very special indeed to outdo Jonny Gray's defensive effort against Ireland but teammate Barclay managed that very special something, stopping 28 Irish runners in their tracks. He topped even that brutal effort with another 13 tackles and a try in the final round of the 2018 Six Nations against Italy.

8. Sam Simmonds -- 36 points

Simmonds will remember his barnstorming Six Nations debut for England forever. He scored twice, made another, ran for 50-plus metres with ball in hand and put in a 20-tackle defensive shift for good measure. It was enough to pick up 26 Fantasy Rugby points and set him on the road to the team of the tournament, even though injury meant he only played in two more games.