Champions Cup Team of the Season

Date published: May 6 2015

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At the end of the first Champions Cup, we pick out a XV of the best players from this year's championship.

Four players each from finalists Toulon and Clermont make our selection, with some familiar faces and newer ones making the cut.

Disagree with our choices? Let us know who should have made the side in the comments.

Champions Cup Team of the Season

15 Nick Abendanon (Clermont)Defeated in the final but not after scoring a brilliant solo try – one of the finest chip and chases Twickenham has ever seen – Abendanon has arguably been the player of the Champions Cup this year. One of the best attackers in this year's competition, regardless of his error in the final that culminated in Mathieu Bastareaud's try. Moving to Clermont has been a revelation for the former Bath full-back. Edges out a new European champion in Leigh Halfpenny.

14 Noa Nakaitaci (Clermont)The France winger featured heavily in our Teams of the Week throughout the competition, only Abendanon beat more defenders than his team-mate as Clermont romped through the group stage and then demolished Northampton in the quarter-final. The slippery winger constantly made ground and finished with three tries. Drew Mitchell's wonder try in the final deserves a special mention.

13 Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon): Criticised in some quarters but his numbers speak for themselves. His fifth straight European final and a third successive title for the French international, who has a knack of scoring key tries for his club. He ended in joint second place this season on five scores, two behind George North, and sees off Bath's electric runner Jonathan Joseph as our number thirteen.

12 Ian Madigan (Leinster)The top points scorer in the competition with 113 killed off opponents time and again with his accurate boot as Leinster marched to the semi-finals, falling in extra-time to the eventual champions. His contribution with the boot kept him in the XV ahead of Wesley Fofana, despite his excellent showings in the semi-final and final along with four tries overall.

11 Juan Imhoff (Racing Métro)Swapped over to the left wing from the right, Imhoff was outstanding for Racing in their march to the quarter-finals as he weighed in with five tries. The Argentine flyer has never lacked for speed and he punished Northampton Saints on their own turf with two scores, while impressively making 13 clean breaks in six games. He holds off George North, the top try scorer with seven, and Bryan Habana.

10 George Ford (Bath)England's young fly-half gave such a commanding performance in the quarter-final defeat to Leinster in Dublin that he deserved more for his efforts. Ford has bigger things to come later this year but in a breakout season the Bath star has proven he belonds at the top. Good enough to keep out Camille Lopez and Charlie Hodgson, while Brock James also impressed in the knockout stages.

9 Sébastian Tillous-Borde (Toulon): Four try assists from the underrated Toulon scrum-half as he sees off Racing Metro nine Maxime Machenaud to this spot. Ben Youngs also stood out in the pool stages but Tillous-Borde gets our nod after a solid campaign.

8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens): A hotly-contested position as three European Player of the Season nominees made our shortlist for this shirt. Jamie Heaslip and Fritz Lee were solid for Leinster and Clermont respectively but Vunipola had the edge, with ten turnovers, 83 tackles, 14 offloads, 23 defenders beaten 99 carries enough to warrant his selection. A fine personal season from the Saracen.

7 Steffon Armitage (Toulon): The debate rumbles on in England about whether he should be picked by head coach Stuart Lancaster for this year's Rugby World Cup. That aside, there's no question that Armitage was once again one of the standout performers in the European club competition. Four tries, 89 carries and 19 turnovers were won by the Toulon back-row, as he was a no-brainer for our openside position.

6 Damien Chouly (Clermont)Chouly's graft in the Clermont back row saw him make two of our XVs during the group stages and the France back-row didn't stop in his side's march to the final. One of the top lineout options in the competition with 28 takes. He keeps out France team-mate Wenceslas Lauret from Racing Métro.

5 Ali Williams (Toulon): Back-to-back European titles for the former All Black, who has received a new lease of life since his move from the Blues in 2013. He was man-of-the-match in the final as his partnership with Bakkies Botha impressed once again, enough to see off the impressive George Kruis who topped the most line-outs won stats. He'll now look to add another Top 14 title before retirement.

4 Devin Toner (Leinster)The Ireland second row keeps getting better with age. Toner was outstanding for Leinster in the semi-final as he led the charge and disrupted the champions' set-piece. Toner keeps out Joe Tekori of Toulouse who turned in a couple of huge outings during the pool stages.

3 Davit Zirakashvili (Clermont)The best tighthead on the continent. Georgia's finest had another memorable tournament as Clermont's pack dominated their opposition throughout, until Toulon. Gave Northampton and England's Alex Corbisiero an especially torrid time.

2 Jamie George (Saracens): Put in tireless shift after tireless shift for the English club, who bowed out of the tournament to Clermont in the semi-finals. For a hooker to finish joint top of the tackle statistic is something special as the absence of Schalk Brits due to injury wasn't as badly felt as first feared for Saracens. Speaking of Clermont, the consistent Benjamin Kayser deserves a mention.

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens): He made our selections after the quarter-final and semi-final, which proves he performs on the big stage. Another strong campaign from the Saracens prop as he joins his brother in the line-up, seeing off Toulon's Xavier Chiocci here.

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