The Gallagher Premiership has taken a break to go backpacking around Europe and find itself, before giving the kids a chance with the newly formed Premiership Cup developmental competition. Despite the fact that the domestic league won’t return until next week, there are still plenty of lessons to be learnt ahead of the next round of Fantasy League action: who is on fire and who should you fire? Read on for our three top takeaways from the cup break.
The courts have been working overtime of late, sentencing a vast array of Premiership stars to the naughty step. Danny Cipriani, Alex Lozowski and Nathan Hughes, all of whom have been starring members of the Fantasy League so far this season, have been handed suspensions for a variety of infringements in recent weeks. Cipriani was the recipient of a fairly controversial red card in Gloucester’s Champions Cup defeat by Munster. Hughes’ infringement actually came during a Premiership game, but it was his subsequent Twittering that led to the England star’s lengthy suspension, and pretty much nobody knows what’s going on with Lozowski after his double deviation during Saracen’s clash with Glasgow Warriors.
Cipriani and Lozowski should be eligible to return to action this week but Hughes will have to sit on the sidelines until November 20th at the earliest, and even then may be more likely to be pulling on the white jersey of England rather than the black and yellow of Wasps. When it comes to picking your Fantasy League team for the next round of the Premiership, momentum and match fitness are all important considerations. Whilst these three players most likely wouldn’t have featured in the Premiership Cup, a few weeks on the chain gang can affect players in different ways. Consider whether they’re the type to hit the ground running upon their return, or whether you should switch them out for a couple of weeks while they shake off the rust.
The kids are alright
The jury is still out on whether the Premiership Cup is the high profile developmental competition it bills itself as, ready to unearth the next great stars of English rugby, or whether it’s just a watered-down version of the Premiership featuring players nobody’s heard of. Nonetheless, the first round of the tournament at the weekend showed that the future of the Premiership is bright indeed, even if fans aren’t fully sold on the competition yet. Saracens continued their unbeaten run this season with their ninth straight win in all competitions. A resurgent Worcester Warriors took Sale Sharks to pieces, with their promising run of form one of the most unexpected success stories of this season (and the reason so many Warriors have made it into the Fantasy League team so often).
The big success from the weekend though was Northampton Saints, whose youthful side beat a comparatively experienced Bristol Bears in an impressive 51-24 victory. 12 academy graduates featured for the Saints, and seven debutants gained their first caps for the Black, Green & Gold at Franklin’s Gardens. England Under-20s star James Grayson in particular impressed at fly half, and with Dan Biggar likely to be missing on international duty for a large part of the season, the world cup winner’s son could be a valuable (and cheap) addition to your Fantasy League team.
Casualties and Career Changes
As seems to be all to common right now, the past few weeks have seen several Premiership stars ruled out for significant periods of time. We already knew that Fantasy League XV stalwart Sam Simmonds would be out for several months, and Courtney Lawes’ bizarre bedroom mishap may have put a dent in his England ambitions this autumn. Worcester’s Jono Lance has broken his back, Harry Mallinder is out for the rest of the season with a “significant knee injury”, Dan Robson needs surgery as does Joe Launchbury, both Billy and Mako Vunipola are out and Sale Sharks have had to bring in Robert Du Preez as cover for AJ MacGinty, who had been starring in the Fantasy League up until now.
With so many injuries (indeed, England alone are without 320 caps for the autumn internationals), some chopping and changing is definitely going to be necessary to keep your Fantasy League team performing at full capacity. This is all without even mentioning Christian Wade’s abrupt departure to join the NFL, with the Wasps winger giving up his rugby career in hope of success stateside. With only three changes permissible between rounds, if you’re unfortunate enough to have several of these names in your squad you’ll have to think carefully about who to jettison – this is where the strength of your bench truly comes in to play.
Now you’ve read our top tips, why not head on over to the Fantasy League to start managing your team?
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.