Champions Cup: Team of the Week

Date published: April 11 2016

After the dust has settled on four memorable Champions Cup quarter-finals, it is time for us to roll out our Team of the Week.

Wasps, Saracens, Leicester and Racing 92 progressed into the last four but how many of their players made our XV? It’s time to find out.

15 Charles Piutau (Wasps): Two tries from the All Black as his second at the death in Coventry led to Jimmy Gopperth sending over the match winning two points. What a brilliant signing Piutau has been as he sees off Racing 92 full-back Brice Dulin, who was superb against Toulon with his kick returns. Dulin made 125 metres on Sunday and was a big reason why Toulon were knocked out of the competition.

14 Telusa Veainu (Leicester): Another excellent signing this season has been Tongan finisher Veainu. Able to cover wing and full-back, Tigers fans quickly warmed to him and he was very good again on Sunday. 141 running metres and one try to his name, a good day.

13 Peter Betham (Leicester): Both in attack and defence Betham was impressive against Stade Français. In recent weeks he has formed a formidable midfield partnership with Manu Tuilagi and again they were a dynamic duo, with Tigers fans hoping this form continues.

12 Siale Piutau (Wasps): Joins his brother in our team as Piutau sees off Manu Tuilagi for our inside centre spot. Tuilagi started strongly with a try and offered plenty going forward throughout, but in a much tighter quarter-final Piutau was a rock for Wasps.

11 Vereniki Goneva (Leicester): A mention for Racing 92 finisher Juan Imhoff for a strong showing against Toulon but Goneva grabbed a brace in his final Champions Cup game on home soil for Leicester. The flying Fijian also set up one as Tigers eased to victory.

10 Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps): He has been in many European pressure situations before with Leinster and it showed on Saturday as Gopperth coolly slotted over the match-winning conversion against Exeter. As this competition witnessed on Sunday, goal-kicking is a skill that comes with pressure and Gopperth displayed the calmness required to book his side’s place in a Champions Cup semi-final with Saracens.

9 Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92): With Dan Carter nursing an injury, Machenaud has to take over the kicking responsibilities. And while he did miss one fairly straightforward attempt on 75 minutes, he dusted himself down to land the one that made it 19-16. He was also in the thick of it defensively and directed the Racing ship well. A mention for Exeter scrum-half Will Chudley, who also stood out.

8 Teimana Harrison (Northampton): To get the nod after a loss and also ahead of a two-try showing from Thomas Waldrom and the form number eight in Europe, Billy Vunipola, shows just how well Harrison played. Fourteen carries, eight defenders beaten. A superb shift.

7 George Smith (Wasps): Continued his great recent form with yet another tireless showing on Saturday. Smith put in thirteen tackles and was a regular ball carrier and all-round leader for Wasps. They will miss him greatly when he leaves at the end of the season.

6 Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92): Wasps replacement Thomas Young was excellent and surely now has to start in their semi-final over James Haskell. Elsewhere Mike Fitzgerald was strong for Leicester but we go for Lauret, who helped neutralise that Toulon back-row.

5 Joe Launchbury (Wasps): Luke Charteris was everywhere for Racing 92, making a team high thirteen tackles. However, the Wales international is edged out by Wasps second-row Launchbury to this jersey, who was also tireless for his side. Thirteen carries and fourteen tackles from him.

4 Dom Barrow (Leicester): Getting the nod over the consistent Maro Itoje is no mean feat but that’s what Barrow does after a lung-busting shift against Stade Français. The 23-year-old former Leeds and Newcastle lock completed a total of 21 tackles at Welford Road.

3 Jake Cooper-Woolley (Wasps): A willing ball carrier for Wasps in their win over Exeter and also chipped in with thirteen tackles, which was the second most of his team. He’s turned out to be a great signing from Cardiff Blues where he struggled for game time.

2 Schalk Brits (Saracens): First a mention for Racing 92 replacement Camille Chat, who was impressive coming off the bench for Dimitri Szarzewski. But Brits gets the nod here after another busy display in the loose. He just does things many other hookers can’t.

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens): Continues his excellent season for club and country with yet more carries and solidity at scrum time. Saracens have skillful, powerful and quick forwards throughout their pack and Vunipola is certainly one of those who causes damage.