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Fantasy MLR: Round 1 Player Rankings

By: John Fitzpatrick
Feb 17, 2023 - 10:21am

The 2023 MLR regular season kicks off tonight and that means members of The Fantasy Ruckers league are making decisions about their starting lineups.

Ever the gracious league member, I've decided to help my fellow fantasy MLR managers with their lineup decisions.

Before we get to the rankings, here's a quick reminder of how points are tallied in this league.

League Settings - Scoring

Individual players accumulate, or lose, points based on the following stats:

Tries = 5 pts

Try Assist = 2 pts

Conversions = 1.0 pts

Penalties = 1.5 pts

70+ minutes played = 0.5 pts

80+ minutes played = 1.0 pts

Yellow Card = -4.0 pts

Red Card = -8.0 pts

**- Meters gained = 0.1pts/meter (replaces last year's try distance meters)

Tackles = 0.3pts

Breakdown steals = 2pts

Turnovers = -0.5pts **

MLR clubs accumulate points based on their collective performance with set pieces, scoring and defensive effort.

Set-piece Try Assist (Any try scored off of a maul/scrum by a player participating in a scrum or lineout) = 2.0 pts (awarded to Set piece TEAM)

Offensive Bonus Point (Team scored 4+ tries in a game, exactly like MLR’s bonus point standing system) = 1.0 pts (awarded to Set piece TEAM)

Defensive Bonus Point (Team loses within 7pts of opposing team, exactly like MLR’s bonus point) = 1.0 pts (awarded to Set piece TEAM)

League Settings - Rosters

And here's a quick reminder about how each starting roster comes together.

Each manager must field a lineup that includes one player at each of the following positions:

Front Row

Second Row

Back Row

Forward Flex




Back Three

Back Flex

Team Defense/Set Piece

Lineup Decisions

Ahead of each week's matchup, I'll place players into three categories - "Must Start," "Solid Start," and "Consider if Needed."

Must Start - These players are going into your starting lineup no matter what. You feel good that they will accumulate a lot of points every week.

Solid Start - These players are solid fantasy contributors every week, maybe even pop off on certain weeks. You can count on them for steady points, and are the backbone of your team.

Consider If Needed - These are players you are taking a flyer on. Add them to your lineup and cross your fingers for a big performance.

A Quick Note: As of this writing, three teams have posted game day rosters, so we'll take those into account with this week's rankings.

Caveat: this column won't feature every single player eligible at each position - just the handful of players that league members have on rosters and are considering for their lineups.

Let's get into the first week of lineup decisions.

Front Row

Note: Hookers dominated fantasy scoring in the front row, so this list will be heavy on hookers that will accumulate points in Round 1.

Must Start

James Malcolm, Hooker, Seattle Seawolves - 2nd in fantasy scoring in the front row last season.

Dylan Fawsitt, Hooker, New York Ironworkers - fourth-highest scoring front row player in fantasy last season, though could have more minutes stolen away from him this season by his USA Eagle teammate Kaleb Geiger, who finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position last season.

Solid Start

Mills Sanerivi, Hooker, New England Free Jacks - middle of the back last year in fantasy scoring, but gets a big start in Round 1.

Mazamo Majola, Loosehead prop Seattle Seawolves

Pat O'Toole, Hooker, NOLA Gold

Kaleb Geiger, Hooker, New York Ironworkers - see note above about Dylan Fawsitt. Geiger will get quality minutes and some starts throughout the season.

Gene Syminton, Hooker, Toronto Arrows

Jack Iscaro, Loosehead prop, Old Glory DC

Sam Matenga, Tighthead prop, Seattle Seawolves

Consider If Needed

Hugh Roach, Hooker, Chicago Hounds - A safe bet that Hugh gets quality minutes in Round 1.

Andrew Quattrin, Hooker, New England Free Jacks - not starting against NOLA, but should see some quality minutes in Round 1.

Peter Malcolm, Hooker, Seattle Seawolves - may not get starting minutes for the first game or two, but will get quality minutes off the bench.

Facundo Gattas, Hooker, Old Glory DC - missed pretty much all of last season, but could get the start in Round 1.

Cole Keith, Tighthead prop, New England Free Jacks

Kyle Ciquera, Loosehead prop, New England Free Jacks

Tiann Erasmus, Rugby ATL

Jack McRogers, Hooker, Toronto Arrows

Ramiro Herrera, Tighthead prop, Old Glory DC - if he's available for Round 1, I'd take a flyer on him.

Keep on the Bench

Dean Muir, Hooker, Houston SaberCats - highest-scoring front row player in fantasy last season, but is traveling back home to South Africa for the birth of his first child!

Second Row

Must Start

Johan Momsen, Rugby ATL - the highest-scoring player at his position (by 16 points), lock him into your starting lineups.

Stan South, Old Glory DC

Jurrie van Vuuren, Utah Warriors

Ben Mitchell, Seattle Seawolves - new team this season. I'm throwing Big Ben in the starting lineup.

Luke White, Chicago Hounds - I feel safe placing Luke White in the starting lineup.

Cam Dolan, NOLA Gold

Solid Start

Josh Larsen, New England Free Jacks

Ryno Herbst, Seattle Seawolves

Nathan den Hoedt, Houston SaberCats

Ben Grant, San Diego Legion

Liam Hallam Eames, NOLA Gold - MLR newcomer gets the starting nod in Round 1.

Justin Basson, Rugby ATL

Tevita Naqali, Old Glory DC

Ben Landry, Seattle Seawolves

Consider if Needed

Nate Brakeley, New York Ironworkers

Mike Sheppard, Toronto Arrows - coming off the bench in Round 1 after starting most games last season.

Saia 'Uhila, Utah Warriors

Semisi Paea, New England Free Jacks

Back Row

Must Start

Lance Williams, Flanker, Utah Warriors - scored the second-most fantasy points in the back row last season. Set it and forget it starter.

Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, No.8, Old Glory DC

Jason Damm, No.8, Rugby ATL

Cory Daniel, Flanker, Old Glory DC - plug this tackle machine into your starting lineup.

Wian Conradie, No.8, New England Free Jacks

Tevita Tameilau, Flanker, San Diego Legion

Solid Start

Mitch Jacobson, Flanker, New England Free Jacks

Tom Florence, Flanker, NOLA Gold

Bailey Wilson, Flanker, Utah Warriors

Brendon O’Connor, Flanker, New York Ironworkers

Moni Tongauiha, NOLA, Flanker, NOLA Gold

Christian Poidevan, Flanker, San Diego Legion

Hanco Germishuys, No.8, Houston SaberCats

Benjamin Bonasso, Flanker, New York Ironworkers

Danny Barrett, Flanker, Houston SaberCats,

Conrado Roura, Flanker, Dallas Jackals

Lucas Rumball, Flanker, Toronto Arrows

Consider if Needed

Ronan Foley, flanker, Seattle Seawolves - may not get starting minutes for the first week or so, but will get quality minutes off the bench and starts throughout the season.

Joe Johnston, Flanker, New England Free Jacks

Keep on the Bench

Devin Short, Flanker, NOLA Gold - not in the match day 23.

Matt Heaton, Flanker, Rugby ATL - not in the match day 23.


Must Start

Danny Tusitala, Old Glory DC - the highest scorer at his position last season, Tusitala looks rejuvenated with an OGDC squad that looks vastly improved this season.

JP Smith, Seattle Seawolves

Dillon Smit, Houston SaberCats

Damian Stevens, NOLA Gold - gets the starting nod in Round 1 over former Super Rugby teammate Luke Campbell.

Solid Start

John Poland, New England Free Jacks

Conor McManus, New York Ironworkers

Ryan Gouws, Rugby ATL - gets the start over Ryan Rees in Round 1.

Richard Judd, San Diego Legion - sounds like he'll get the start in a match that has the potential to be very high-scoring.

Ross Braude, Toronto Arrows

Consider If Needed

Connor McLeod, Utah Warriors - keeping an eye on the starting scrumhalf for Utah to see if Niall Saunders gets the nod.

Jason Higgins, San Diego Legion - may not get the start in Round 1.

Michael Baska, Chicago Hounds

Niall Saunders, Utah Warriors

Luke Campbell, NOLA Gold

Pedro Imhoff, Dallas Jackals

Nate Augspurger, San Diego Legion - Nate may be playing on the wing this season, so something to keep an eye on.

Ryan Rees, Rugby ATL


Must Start

AJ Alatimu, Seattle Seawolves - the highest-scoring flyhalf in fantasy last season. The points off the tee add up quickly.

David Coetzer, Houston SaberCats

Sam Malcolm, Toronto Arrows

Rodney Iona, NOLA Gold - the Samoan international is a fun new addition to New Orleans this season.

Solid Start

Sam Windsor, New Ironworkers - I'd include in the "Must Start" section but it'll come down to who gets the starting nod on Saturday night.

Tito Diaz Bonilla, Old Glory DC - what will the MLR newcomer do in his first MLR regular season game?

Jack Heighton, New York Ironworkers - toss him or Sam Windsor into the "must start" category if either one makes the match day 15.

Kurt Coleman, Rugby ATL - gets the start in Round 1.

Jayson Potroz, New England Free Jacks - it'll be interesting to see how Jayson does in his first start with New England.

Josh Henderson, San Diego Legion - perhaps a surprising selection in San Diego but appears on track to be the starter in Round 1.

Consider If Needed

Luke Carty - it'll be fun to see Luke get starting minutes for a Chicago side that we are all eager to see play.

Joel Hodgson - looks to be the starting flyhalf in Round 1 for Utah, if not then plug in Calvin Whiting.

Will Hooley, San Diego Legion - may actually be slotting in at fullback in Round 1.

Reece MacDonald, New England Free Jacks

Luke Burton, San Diego Legion


Must Start

JP du Plessis, NOLA Gold - 3rd overall in fantasy scoring, 2nd at his position last season.

Louritz van der Schyff, Houston SaberCats

Wayne van der Bank, New England Free Jacks

Mark O’Keefe, Chicago Hounds

Will Leonard, Rugby ATL

Tei Walden, New York Ironworkers - excited to see what Walden will do this season. Let's go ahead and take a flier on him and place him in the starting lineup.

Paul Lasike, Utah Warriors- placing this battering ram into the starting lineup is a no-brainer for me. Could be a big fantasy season for Lasike if he can still healthy.

Dan Kriel, Seattle Seawolves

Tautalatasi Tasi, Toronto Arrows - excited to see how the former Super Rugby player energizes the backline for the Arrows.

Solid Start

Tavite Lopeti, Seattle Seawolves

Bryce Campbell, Chicago Hounds

Fa'asui Fuatai, New York Ironworkers

Christian Dyer, Houston SaberCats

Marcel Brache, San Diego Legion

William Talataina, Old Glory DC - competition for starting spots in the centers for DC this season, but plugging in Talataina if he gets the starting nod this weekend.

Rewita Biddle, Rugby ATL

Consider if Needed

Tyler Fisher, Utah Warriors

Keep on the Bench

Billy Meakes, Chicago Hounds - Billy is currently in Australia and allegedly with visa issues keeping him away from the team, not exactly sure when he’ll join the Hounds. Insiders say mid-March at best.

Ben LeSage, New England Free Jacks - on New England's "injury & recovery list for Round 1.

Le Roux Malan, New England Free Jacks - on New England's "injury & recovery list for Round 1.

Te Rangatira Waitokia, Rugby ATL

Back Three

Must Start

Ed Fidow, Wing, New York Ironworkers - Plugging in the dude who scored the most tries last season

Duncan Matthews, Fullback, Seattle Seawolves

Peni Lasaqa, Wing, Old Glory DC

Paula Balekana, Wing, New England Free Jacks

Mikey Te'o, wing, San Diego Legion - returns to San Diego and joins a team that could pull on the points in a hurry.

Mitch Wilson, Fullback, New England Free Jacks

Harley Wheeler, Wing NOLA Gold

Julián Domínguez, Wing, Chicago Hounds

Solid Start

Junior Sau, Wing, Old Glory DC, probably gets on the field at wing this season, but there is competition at the position, so wait until we see the match day 23 squad.

Martin Iosefo, Wing, Seattle Seawolves

Caleb Makene, Fullback, Utah Warriors

Chris Mattina, Fullback, Chicago Hounds

Drew Wild, Fullback, Houston SaberCats - a newcomer to MLR, but looked solid in preseason.

Joey Mano, Wing, Utah Warriors

Eric Naposki, Wing, Dallas Jackals

Jordan Trainor, Fullback, NOLA Gold

JP Eloff, Fullback, Chicago Hounds

Consider if Needed

Andrew Coe, Wing, New York Ironworkers

Cliven Loubser, Utility Back, Utah Warriors

Matias Freye, Fullback/Wing, NOLA Gold

Conner Mooneyham, Wing, Seattle Seawolves

Lauina Futi, Utility Back, Seattle Seawolves

Nick Feakes, New York Ironworkers

Keep on the Bench

Dougie Fife, Wing NOLA Gold - not sure why Dougie was left off the roster in his highly anticipated debut against his former side. That reunion will have to wait until later in the season.

Team Defense/Set Piece

Must Start

Houston SaberCats - Looked very impressive in the first 40 minutes against the New England Free Jacks in the final preseason hit-out. May be licking their (saber)teeth in this Round 1 matchup against the Dallas Jackals.

New York Ironworkers - The highest-scoring team defense/set piece in fantasy last season. With two of the top front row players in fantasy (Dylan Fawsitt and Kaleb Geiger), I anticipate some more points from this unit in 2023.

Solid Start

New England Free Jacks - Despite a tough outing against Houston in the preseason, I’m confident this unit can rebuild around some of the (major) pieces that left. Replacing Waaka will not be easy, but this defensive unit was tough last season, resulting in the squad finishing above the pack in fantasy scoring.


Call me crazy - I do play fantasy MLR - but I’m placing the team that gave up the third-most points and scored the second-fewest points (finishing dead last in fantasy scoring last season) as a solid start in Round 1.

Old Glory DC

Old Glory scored a bunch of points last season, but also had a bunch of points scored on them. Still, they finished slightly above the pack in fantasy scoring. This will be a fun unit to watch this season.

Rugby ATL

Scored the second-most fantasy points last season and was one of the better defensive sides last season.

San Diego Legion

San Diego was the second highest-scoring team last season, but also gave up a few points. This team looks much improved on paper and in early preseason results, so I consider them a solid start at home against Utah in Round 1.

Consider if Needed

Seattle Seawolves

Despite fielding a defensive unit that gave up the fourth-fewest tries in MLR last season, Seattle was unable to turn that into consistent fantasy points, finishing near the bottom.

Toronto Arrows

A little nervous by the two preseason results, so I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach before deploying this unit in fantasy.

Utah Warriors

Finished in the middle of the pack in fantasy last season, so going to take a wait-and-see approach with a squad that looks to turn things around in 2023.

Keep on the Bench

Chicago Hounds

A tough call here. Despite fielding top players from Austin and LA last season, I’m keeping this unit on the bench until we see them play.

Dallas Jackals

Until we see some improvement, it will be tough to trust the team that gave up the most points last season.