The Blacks are back!
This week sees the return of most of the All Blacks to the starting lineups for their respective provinces. Expect to see a virtually full strength lineup from Canterbury, Auckland, Wellington and Otago run onto the park this week. While this is great for the supporters of these provinces (go Canterbury!) it creates even more head-aches for the Fantasy Rugby punter by adding another 26 players to consider.
And the problem isn't so much "which All Blacks do I pick?" as "which poor sucker, who has been performing really well so far, is going to miss out of game time?"
Looking down the list of the top 30 players so far their are only two guys that I think will be seriously affected, Mark Mayerholfer and Josh Blackie, but if you look at the competition as a whole there are plenty of other guys who have been playing well for the "big four" unions but will see little opportunities from here on in.
A few other names to be wary of include, Ben Blair, Chris Jack, Derek Maisey and Ben Hurst from Canterbury, Brad Fleming and Shannon Paku for Wellington and Paul Miller, Carl Hayman and whoever has been playing in the 9, 10 & 12 jersey's for Otago. There are a few injured All Blacks too at the moment, who when healthy will slot right back into the starting teams. So keep an eye on Doug Howlett, Anton Oliver and Mark Hammett's condition, and who they will replace, as well.
With some of the provinces having very deep benches you need to apply some rules of thumb to your selection process if you are going to pick the guys who will get the most game time. One useful rule is: The team captain is likely to play the whole game. This is especially important in the case of Otago and Canterbury as care-taker captains Middleton and Gibson have both been given the job for the rest of the season, and baring injury, will be on the park for much of each game. Personally I wouldn't pick a Canterbury midfielder or an Otago loosie, there is just too much depth on those sides at that position.
Follow some of those tips and you should at least be able to pick a squad of guys who are going to play each week, and keep an eye on the top performers list to help you decide which of the fantasy studs you should grab. Good luck!