Champions Cup Team of the Season: La Rochelle dominate our picks with seven players included

Jared Wright
La Rochelle have six players represented in our Champions Cup team of the season as they defeated Leinster to win the tournament for a second time.

As the dust settles on another magnificent Champions Cup season, we have had a discussion and picked our team of the tournament.

After securing back-to-back titles by defeating Leinster 27-26 in the final, La Rochelle has seven players in our team, with three from the losing finalists featuring.

Champions Cup Team of the Season

15 Thomas Ramos (Toulouse): The French star has enjoyed a stunning run of form over the past 18 months, and that extended to the Champions Cup as Toulouse reached the semi-final. The full-back averaged 14 points per game, scored two tries, and assisted three in five games. He did enough to beat La Rochelle’s brilliant Brice Dulin and Leinster’s superb Hugo Keenan.

14 Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster): One of the few Leinster players who played every game as the Irish side cruised to the final. He grabbed his fourth try of the competition in the final and ended the tournament with the most clean breaks (13) and metres gained (450). Harlequins’ Cadan Murley was excellent in the pool stages, while La Rochelle’s Raymond Rhule is unlucky to miss out.

Sensational centres

13 UJ Seuteni (La Rochelle): There were two clear standouts for the outside centre role, and both reached the final. Seuteni edged ahead of Garry Ringrose with two outstanding performances in the last two games of La Rochelle’s victorious campaign. The Samoan scored crucial tries against Exeter and Leinster and was named man of the match in the former.

12 Pita Ahki (Toulouse): Another stellar season from the former All Black, who was heavily involved in everything Toulouse did well in the tournament. He missed just one tackle in his six games and was particularly brilliant in the victories over the Bulls and Sharks. Jonathan Danty almost joined his clubmate Seuteni in the side, with his hulking carries being a huge asset for Ronan O’Gara’s side, but his three yellow cards counted heavily against him. Stormers’ Dan du Plessis was also outstanding as he took his game to another level this season.

11 Olly Woodburn (Exeter Chiefs): There were a few standouts vying for the second wing spot in our team. Leinster’s James Lowe, La Rochelle’s Dillyn Leyds and the Sharks’ Makazole Mapimpi were all in the running. However, we have gone with Exeter’s excellent Woodburn, who produced impressive performances to help the Premiership side reach the semi-finals. He was superb against Castres, the Stormers and even in the defeat to La Rochelle.

French half-backs

10 Antoine Hastoy (La Rochelle): The brilliant fly-half shone throughout the tournament, scoring 97 points and assisting five tries. He was a driving force in turning the final in favour of the champions and had standout games against Northampton, Ulster and Saracens. Leinster’s Ross Byrne was excellent throughout but was outplayed by Hastoy in the final. Handre Pollard shone for Leicester Tigers, while Romain Ntamack was solid for Toulouse.

9 Antoine Dupont (Toulouse): The brilliant scrum-half was on form throughout Toulouse’s run to the semi-finals. He finished the tournament with 27 defenders beaten, the most in the competition, the second most clean breaks (10), and the most try assists (10) – five of which came in the quarter-final against the Sharks. He was nominated for the EPCR Player of the Year and beats the outstanding Tawera Kerr-Barlow to the scrum-half spot in our team and Leinster’s Jamison Gibson-Park.

Brilliant back-rowers

8 Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle): It’s hard to think of a player capable of more gainline impact than the peerless Alldritt. The EPCR Player of the Year made 131 thundering carries and scored three tries for La Rochelle. His performance on Saturday defined self-belief as he put in one of the greatest shifts seen in a final. Jack Conan’s season might not have ended as he’d have liked, but his carrying was at the centre of everything Leinster did. Munster’s Gavin Coombes also deserves a shout-out for his sterling work.

7 Levani Botia (La Rochelle): Dynamic, fast and effective, 27 turnovers, including three in the final, was one of the reasons his club retained their trophy. The Fijian was exceptional and sees off the challenge of the excellent Saracen, Ben Earl, who topped the tackle count with 82. Josh van der Flier might not be winning many friends with his histrionics around the breakdown, but six tries was an excellent return for the Leinster openside.

6 Calean Doris (Leinster): A huge season for a brilliantly talented footballer; we pick him on the blindside, where he played a lot of his European rugby this season. Our runner-up is the sensational Stormer, veteran Deon Fourie, who exemplified everything good about South African club rugby in this year’s competition, whilst Jack Willis showed the Toulouse fans just how good he is as he joined them from Wasps.

Powerhouse locks

5 Will Skelton (La Rochelle): If you’re picking a world XV right now, Skelton is very much in the debate. His performances against Saracens and Leinster were simply wonderful as he took physicality to new levels. James Ryan’s HIA was the turning point on Saturday, and his season has seen him step up to new levels of power – it says something about his brilliance that Leinster were on top all the way when he was on the pitch – a shout out too for Thibaud Flament, who moved between flank and lock for Toulouse.

4 Emmanuel Meafou (Toulouse): We simply decided to pick the biggest lock partnership in history for our Team of the Tournament. Meafou is possibly the only man who could match Skelton power for power, and he sees off the excellence of Maro Itoje of Saracens and Dafydd Jenkins of Exeter, who made a remarkable 70 tackles.


3 Uini Atonio (La Rochelle): Never underestimate how much the work of Atonio on the Black and Yellow tighthead side influences their strategy. He has bolted on a new level of fitness and takes the shirt over Saracens’ Italian import, Marco Riccioni and Toulouse’s Dorian Aldegheri, who both had exceptional campaigns.

2 Dan Sheehan (Leinster): He almost turned a cup final in 14 minutes, and his pace, lineout accuracy, and support play has made him one of the world’s foremost hookers. Leicester Tigers’ Julian Montoya still thrills all that see him, whilst Pierre Bourgarit‘s La Rochelle campaign surely has done enough to see him called up for France’s pre-Rugby World Cup squad?

1 Reda Wardi (La Rochelle): The French international joins his clubmate in the front-row after an immense season. He was resolute in the scrums throughout the competition and is cementing himself as one of the elite scrummagers in world rugby. Andrew Porter put in huge shifts for Leinster going deep into most games, including an 80-minute slog in the final. Harlequins’ Joe Marler was incredibly close to being our one bolter after he made more carries than any other prop in the tournament (61), put in the second most tackles (58) and also gave three behemoth South Africans – Thomas du Toit, Frans Malherbe and Carlu Sadie – a torrid time in the set-piece, bettering all of them.

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