With the eagerly-anticipated opening weekend of the Women’s Six Nations looming ever closer, it’s decision time for Fantasy Rugby managers everywhere.
The budget is being weighed up, statistics are being examined and stakes are being decided for leagues with friends and family.
Selection headaches are inevitable when trying to compile the best possible XV – so who better to give us some pointers than the captains of the sides doing battle over the next month?
We caught up with Sarah Hunter, Ciara Griffin, Gaëlle Hermet, Rachel Malcolm, Manuela Furlan and Siwan Lillicrap to ask them which of their squad are must-picks – bearing in mind, of course, points are available for tackles and metres made as well as tries.
Here’s who they identified as their ones to watch – and make sure you get your team sorted in time for Saturday’s opening fixtures by clicking here.
Sarah Hunter is playing it safe with her selection – and who can blame her?
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of good players but I’d certainly have Emily Scarratt in there,” she said.
“I’m sure she’ll feature in virtually everyone’s team. She ticks all the boxes for how you earn points.
“She would be one player I’d have in there, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Last year’s Player of the Championship and England’s all-time record points scorer will no doubt prove a popular choice for Fantasy Rugby managers, a fact reflected in her price tag.
At 18.0 stars, Scarratt is the most expensive player in the game but consistency and quality is almost guaranteed.
The centre is captaining England in their Pool A opener against Scotland – don’t forget, double points are available for the player you decide should be skipper for your squad.
Ireland players are not available to select in your team for this round but Ciara Griffin believes plenty of her teammates will be valuable additions ahead of their big kick-off against Wales in Round 2.
“One would be Cliodhna Moloney, just in terms of game line metres, tackles and tackle intensity,” she said.
“She’s a very good try scorer as well, as you saw in the last campaign.”
Hooker Moloney scored in Ireland’s wins over Scotland and Wales last year and with every try worth 15 points, a repeat would do very nicely for those who select the 27-year-old.
“I’d have Nichola Fryday as well, as a second row for game line metres,” Griffin added. “There’s a lot of good players there – Beibhinn (Parsons), (Eimear) Considine.
“There’s many brilliant players in this Fantasy Rugby.”
Gaëlle Hermet had no hesitation in picking out scrum-half Laure Sansus as a player to keep a close eye on, for her character as well as her class.
“Not only is she very talented on the pitch but also she has also shown character many, many times,” Hermet said.
“She’s had very serious injuries and she has shown that you can come back to the highest level even after an injury.”
Sansus certainly showed her clinical side last year, crossing four times to finish as the Championship’s joint-top scorer.
The 26-year-old, a Women’s Six Nations winner in 2016, will have to make her impact from the bench in Round 1 but at 12 stars she represents excellent value.
Often in Fantasy Rugby – and, forwards may argue, in real-life rugby – the backs get all the attention while the unsung hard work of the pack earn your bread-and-butter points.
And Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm, a back-rower by trade, believes one of her fellow forwards will prove a valuable addition for managers looking to get the better of their pals.
“I’m going to say Lana Skeldon at hooker,” she said. “She makes a lot of tackles, breaks the line occasionally and makes metres.
“Often you see hookers going over the line from driving mauls these days so I’m going to go with Lana there.”
The 27-year-old could even be a wildcard selection to add you some points from the tee.
Skeldon added the extras following Emma Wassell’s try against Ireland last year and with conversions and penalties worth three points apiece, the hooker’s skills with the boot are worth noting.
There is no substitute for experience and Manuela Furlan reckons the player she replaced as captain in 2018 will be delivering the goods during this Championship.
“The person that I would definitely include in this squad would be Sara Barattin,” she said.
“Because she is a comprehensive all-round player, an all-round athlete and she’s got a strong personality.
“There is no giving up with her. Whenever there is a hard moment with anything, she will just do some magic to make it better.”
Barattin has been part of the Italian Women’s Six Nations journey since the Azzurre joined the Championship in 2007 and remains a key part of the team, dotting down against France in Round 2 last time out.
By the end of the men’s Championship, Welsh flyer Louis Rees-Zammit had made himself a must-pick for Fantasy Rugby managers.
And in Jasmine Joyce, Wales skipper Siwan Lillicrap believes her side have a player ready to make a similar impact.
“If I’m looking at my fantasy team top try scorer, Jasmine Joyce has got to be in there,” she said.
“Jas has had a brilliant season with some outstanding finishes this year and is on top form.”
The wing, priced at 14.5 stars, is not the only Welsh player backed to make an impression.
“Some of the other girls are playing really well,” Lillicrap added.
“For tackles and the amount of contacts made, Manon Johnes has been brilliant for Bristol.”
There you have it – the experts’ views are in. How many of the recommended players will you go with?