Investec Champions Cup Team of the Week: Six Nations stars dominate in exhilarating final round of pool stage action

Jared Wright
Saracens lock Maro Itoje, Racing 92 flanker Siya Kolisi and Toulouse scrumhalf Antoine Dupont during the Investec Champions Cup.

Saracens lock Maro Itoje, Racing 92 flanker Siya Kolisi and Toulouse scrumhalf Antoine Dupont during the Investec Champions Cup.

Following a thrilling final round of pool stage action in the Investec Champions Cup, we’ve had a discussion and selected our Team of the Week.

The past weekend’s meetings decided the final seedings of the clubs ahead of the last-16, with Toulouse claiming top spot and a home play-off match.

So, without further ado, here is our team of the week with all the players featuring from clubs that secured a safe passage into the knockout stages.

Champions Cup Team of the Week

15 Wille le Roux (Bulls) The Springbok veteran came to the fore with an excellent all-round performance in his side’s 46-40 triumph over Bordeaux-Begles in Pretoria. Le Roux was rewarded with a try for his efforts and also set up some of his team-mates for five-pointers during a superb attacking display. Was also busy on defence and edges out UBB counterpart Romain Buros.

14 James Lowe (Leinster): The Ireland international played on the left wing in his side’s triumph over Leicester Tigers but we had to find a spot for him in our team after an influential attacking display during Leinster’s victory. Lowe was named the official man of the match in that encounter and beats out Andrew Smith of Connacht, Harlequins’ Nick David and Rotimi Segun of Saracens.

13 Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors): Both of Glasgow’s centres could have quite easily have made the cut with the pair impressing in their victory over Toulon on Friday evening, which will please Scotland boss Gregor Townsend. While Sione Tuipulotu ultimately misses out, Jones deservedly makes our team after scoring twice on his return to the midfield and assisted another try in a captivating performance. Meanwhile, UJ Seuteni had a strong outing against Sale as did Racing 92’s Gael Fickou against Cardiff.

12 David Kriel (Bulls): A pair of South Africans were the standouts in the final round of the pool matches, with Harlequins’ Andre Esterhuizen beaten to the role by his fellow countryman, Kriel. The versatile Bulls star was a driving force in the Pretoria-based side’s 46-40 win over Bordeaux and was rightly named man of the match. He was superb with the ball in hand, featuring heavily in the build-up to a number of the Bulls tries, and he directly assisted one and scored another. La Rochelle’s converted back-rower Yoann Tanga also deserves a mention for his performance in his first start at inside centre against Sale Sharks.

11 Louis Lynagh (Harlequins) The 23-year-old delivered arguably the individual performance of the round as he came off the bench in the first half and caught the eye with an excellent attacking performance in his side’s win over Ulster. His efforts were rewarded with two well-taken tries of which one was a superb individual effort. Davit Niniashvili of Lyon was next best.

Brilliant half-backs

10 Fin Smith (Northampton Saints): There was no shortage of options at number 10, with standout performances from the likes of Thomas Ramos, Marcus Smith, Manie Libbok, Jack Crowley, and Antoine Hastoy. However, the new England call-up was the pick of the lot, with a confident display in torrid conditions at Thomond Park. Smith was particularly brilliant in the final 20 minutes as a superb drop-goal was followed by a clutch kick to touch that led to the match-winning try which he converted. He also kicked well out of hand to keep Munster out of the game.

9 Antoine Dupont (Toulouse): No real surprise here as the sensational star features in our Team of the Week once again. It’s a hat-trick of appearances from the Toulouse scrum-half who played his final Investec Champions Cup fixture before linking up with the France 7s squad. Dupont was unreal once again, inspiring Toulouse to a 31-19 victory over Bath on Sunday. He assisted two of his side’s five tries against the in-form Premiership side and gets picked ahead of Bayonne’s Guillaume Rouet and Harlequins’ Danny Care.

Experienced loose forwards

8 Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle): Another hotly contested position with the Bulls’ Elrigh Louw, Bordeaux’s Tevita Tatafu, Leinster’s Caelan Doris and Stade Francais’ Giovanni Habel-Kueffner all making strong cases to feature in our team. But the stand-in France skipper was spectacular for La Rochelle as they claimed a 37-24 victory over Sale Sharks. He was impactful on both sides of the ball, making 10 carries and 15 tackles, and won three turnovers in a brilliant all-round display.

7 Siya Kolisi (Racing 92): It was arguably the Springboks skipper’s finest game for his new club, Racing 92, since linking up the side after the World Cup as he guided the Parisian side to a 48-26 win over Cardiff. Kolisi grabbed his first try for Racing in the win but also did brilliantly to set up another and was furious on defence and at the break, winning two turnovers. Four standout players just missed out to Kolisi, including fellow countrymen Marcell Coetzee and Deon Fourie and Englishmen Jack Willis and Ben Curry. Willis was particularly impressive against Bath, winning an astonishing four turnovers and making 17 tackles.

6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints): The veteran forward shows no signs of slowing down after another match-winning performance against Munster. The combative back-rower rose to the occasion and won a penalty that led to the try that clinched the win, and he was aptly named man of the match for his efforts. Munster’s veteran Peter O’Mahony put in a standout shift in the same game, while Toulouse’s Francois Cros was excellent, as was Harlequin Chandler Cunningham-South.

Tight five

5 Emmanuel Meafou (Toulouse): The behemoth second-row celebrated his maiden call-up to France’s Six Nations squad with an outstanding showing in Toulouse’s victory over Bath. Meafou was solid in the lineouts, put his body on the line in defence and was a willing ball carrier which saw him being rewarded with a well-taken try. Elsewhere, Ruan Nortje also impressed for the Bulls.

4 Maro Itoje (Saracens): The England superstar was at the forefront of Sarries’ onslaught as they launched a stunning fightback to seal a 39-24 in a home win against Lyon. As usual, Itoje shone in the lineouts and on defence but he also made his mark on attack as he crossed for a brace of tries. In other action, Leinster youngster Joe McCarthy also caught the eye.

3 Ben Tameifuna (Bordeaux-Begles): The Tonga captain was one of the 2023 Rugby World Cup’s stars and he has continued where he left off at the global showpiece with several superb performances for UBB. Although he played off the replacements bench, Tameifuna shone in the execution of his core duties but also did his bit as a ball carrier and beats out the Stormers’ Neethling Fouche and Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong.

2 Camille Chat (Racing 92): The Top 14 outfit ran in seven tries in that victory over Cardiff and the platform for that result was set by an excellent forward onslaught. Chat was at the forefront of that effort as he took the fight to his opponents during a 61-minute stint as a ball carrier and on defence. The France international is preferred to Theo Dan of Saracens.

1 Cyril Baille (Toulouse): This was a tough decision as Sti Sithole caught the eye with a superb scrummaging performance, but Baille gets the nod after doing well in Toulouse’s win over Bath. The 30-year-old was in the thick of the action from the outset as he stood up well in the scrums while also catching the eye as a ball carrier.

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