Champions Cup Team of the Week: ‘World-class’ Leinster star, Springbok powerhouse and Toulouse’s workhorse shine in semi-finals

Jared Wright
Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, Harlequins' centre Andre Esterhuizen and Toulouse flanker Francois Cros.

Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, Harlequins' centre Andre Esterhuizen and Toulouse flanker Francois Cros.

After a compelling weekend of Investec Champions Cup action, we select our Team of the Week as Toulouse and Leinster booked their place in the final.

Leinster were first to seal their spot in the final after racing into a 20-3 lead. Northampton Saints fought back but ultimately fell just short of a memorable victory, as the Irish side held on for a 20-17 win.

On Sunday, Toulouse and Harlequins delivered a 10-try thriller, with the French giants claiming a 38-26 victory despite Quins threatening another famous comeback.

The weekend’s results set up for a mighty Investec Champions Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25.

There were a plethora of stunning performances this weekend, making for some tough decisions in our Team of the Week, but all four teams are represented.

So, without further ado, here is our Investec Champions Cup Team of the Week.

Champions Cup Team of the Week

15 Tyrone Green (Harlequins): A Test debut for England or South Africa looks to be on the cards for the brilliant full-back if he continues this form. He scored a stunner through his excellent work-rate against Toulouse and racked up over 140 running metres. Blair Kinghorn is unlucky to miss out after impressing at full-back and on the wing.

14 Cadan Murley (Harlequins): We have switched the wings to accommodate the Quins speedster. His finish in the corner was nothing short of spectacular, and he posed a constant threat whenever he had the ball. Juan Cruz Mallia was solid for Toulouse despite his limited opportunities.

13 Paul Costes (Toulouse): The rising star delivered yet another outstanding performance on the big stage for the French powerhouse. The 21-year-old’s slick footwork caused all kinds of problems for Harlequins’ defence while he created opportunities for those around him, too. Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw and Northampton’s Tommy Freeman produced an entertaining head-to-head in the first semi-final.

12 Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins): The Springbok powerhouse did everything in his power to steer Quins into the final with his hulking carries, slick hands and ferocity in defence and at the breakdown. His opposing number 12, Pita Ahki, also had a fine shift at Stadium de Toulouse, while Jamie Osborne impressed yet again in Leinster’s midfield.

‘Definitely the best’ – Andre Esterhuizen ranks Marcus Smith ahead of Springboks teammates

Hat-trick hero, world-class Gibson-Park

James Lowe after scoring for Leinster.

James Lowe after scoring for Leinster.

11 James Lowe (Leinster): A straightforward decision as the Ireland star crossed for all three of his side’s tries in the 20-17 victory over Northampton Saints. This comes after his five try involvements in the quarter-final. Lowe was critical of his side’s performance in the second half but he was excellent yet again.

10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins): A really tough decision as Fin Smith and Romain Ntamack also had fine outings this weekend but the Quins playmaker gets the nod. He got the edge over Ntamack despite his side finishing on the losing side of the result after backing himself to finish off an excellent try and assisted another.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster): Yet another world-class performance from Leinster’s star man who gets the nod despite a classy showing from Toulouse skipper Antoine Dupont. Gibson-Park was named Player of the Match after guiding Leinster to victory with two try assists. He really is the heartbeat of the Leinster team.

Leinster player ratings: Jamison-Gibson Park and James Lowe star as another Champions Cup final secured

8 Caelan Doris (Leinster): As per usual, the Irishman was combative and relentlessly powered through his workload on both sides of the ball – which Leinster desperately needed against a spirited Saints effort. In the opposing jumper, Juarno Augustus put in another abrasive shift on both sides of the ball as he continues to press for higher honours.

7 Francois Cros (Toulouse): There are few players in better form in Europe than the Les Bleus workhorse who spearheaded Toulouse’s charge into the final. He topped the tackle count in the win over Harlequins and was sensational at the breakdown. Elsewhere, Quins’ Will Evans was sharp despite Toulouse’s conservative efforts to nullify his impact.

Toulouse player ratings: Antoine Dupont brace and Francois Cros masterclass steers French outfit to Champions Cup final

6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints): It proved to be his final Champions Cup appearance for his beloved Saints, and he gave it his all, starring with and without the ball as he racked up 18 tackles and two turnovers. Ryan Baird put in a notable shift too as did Harlequins youngster Chandler Cunningham-South, who were both unlucky to miss out.

Toulouse second-rowers

5 Emmanuel Meafou (Toulouse): It was hard to look past the French side’s gargantuan second-rower. He caused havoc for Quins’ defence, drawing in multiple defenders with his carry before expertly offloading in contact. Leinster’s Joe McCarthy enjoyed another strong performance against Northampton, as did Quins captain Stephan Lewies.

4 Thibaud Flament (Toulouse): He combined superbly with Meafou to provide the Top 14 outfit with a double punch of power and work rate. He robbed Cunningham-South of the ball to score a deserved try and nicked a lineout to set Toulouse on their way for a try.

3 Tadhg Furlong (Leinster): The Irish front-row did a stellar job in their victory over Northampton Saints, and the veteran tighthead was at his best again. A mention for Quins’ Will Collier who got the better of Cyril Baille in Toulouse.

2 Dan Sheehan (Leinster): Three real standouts in the middle of the front-row with Toulouse’s Peato Mauvaka and Northampton’s Curtis Langdon putting in stellar performances this weekend and are unfortunate to miss out to Leinster’s star forward. Sheehan was accurate in the set-piece, got his hands on the ball plenty while put in a strong defensive performance.

1 Fin Baxter (Harlequins): Fronting up against a powerful French pack like Toulouse’s is a daunting task but Quins’ young loosehead rose to the challenge just as he did against Bordeaux. He got the better of Dorian Aldegheri and was no slouch around the park either. Andrew Porter also shone for Leinster in their win over Northampton.

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