Team of the Week: Champions Cup

Date published: April 3 2017

With this season’s Champions Cup quarter-finals done and dusted, it’s time to work out which players excelled over the weekend.

Comfortable wins on Saturday for Leinster and Munster naturally see them dominate our selection, with the PRO12 having two sides in the final four after no representation last season.

Defending champions Saracens meanwhile look like they are peaking at just the right time after they took apart Glasgow Warriors.

Let’s see who made the cut.

Team of the Week: Champions Cup quarter-finals

15 Joey Carbery (Leinster)Phenomenal performance from the young full-back as Carbery carved up Wasps’ defence, with two key assists in the first half for Isa Nacewa and Jack Conan, while racking up 160 metres with the ball in hand. Looked assured once again on the big stage and has put himself in contention for the Lions. Kurtley Beale deserved better.

14 Chris Ashton (Saracens)He has his detractors and was at fault for Glasgow’s first score from Lee Jones, but Ashton is still a lethal finisher. He could have had four tries on Saturday were it not for some excellent last-gasp defence. Instead he settled for two, tying him for the most tries ever in Europe alongside Vincent Clerc on 36. Christian Wade turned in a magical solo score.

13 Garry Ringrose (Leinster)Much like Carbery the young Leinsterman exudes confidence, with Saturday’s win over Wasps being one of the best performances of his fledgling career. Worked tirelessly in attack, beating seven defenders and making 86 metres from 17 carries. Marcelo Bosch showed his class with a fine solo effort against Glasgow.

12 Rémi Lamerat (Clermont)Plenty of competition from Jimmy Gopperth – what a solo try – and Robbie Henshaw, but the French international centre gets the nod for standing out in an ugly game at the Stade Marcel Michelin. Lamerat’s work-rate is phenomenal and he beat five defenders on 12 runs as Clermont ground Toulon down.

11 Simon Zebo (Munster)Switched from full-back after a sparkling performance in Munster’s big win over Toulouse, with Zebo topping the 100-metre mark and showing great sleight of hand for the assist to send over Andrew Conway in closing minutes. Has done his Lions chances no harm. Sean Maitland went well too for Saracens.

10 Owen Farrell (Saracens)Any of the four winning fly-halves could be considered with Camille Lopez, in one of his best games of the season, plus both Johnny Sexton and Tyler Bleyendaal having their moments in the quarter-finals. But the precision of Farrell’s passing was something to behold at Allianz Park, while he repeatedly took the ball up to the line himself with 15 carries. Finished with 18 points too after three conversions and four penalties.

9 Duncan Williams (Munster)A very late call-up on Saturday after Conor Murray was ruled out but Williams delivered the kind of performance most Munster supporters will have expected, looking calm under pressure and excelling in the demolition of Toulouse. Delivered the pass for John Ryan’s early score which set the tone.

8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens)Building up that match fitness and Vunipola was mightily impressive on Sunday against Toulouse. The England number eight looked back to his best chewing up metres off the back of the scrum, giving Saracens vital momentum for their exits and attacks. Eight defenders beaten, four offloads from 16 big carries. CJ Stander was excellent as ever, while Fritz Lee caught the eye too.

7 Sean O’Brien (Leinster)Narrow call between O’Brien and his Irish counterpart Tommy O’Donnell, who topped his side’s tackle count with 17. But O’Brien relished the open contest at the Aviva Stadium accumulating a highly impressive 77 metres from 15 runs and beating three defenders, while also making 11 tackles in defence. Liam Gill was the only positive from Toulon’s defeat at Clermont.

6 Dan Leavy (Leinster)Made quite an impact against England two weeks beforehand and Leavy was at it again, this time facing Wasps, as the in-form 22-year-old stood out with an incredible work-rate against Wasps. Leavy shared the top tackle spot with O’Brien on 11 but also beat six defenders from his ten carries.

5 Devin Toner (Leinster)Excellent response in a big game after being dropped to the bench against England, with Toner helping to set the physical tone required to keep Wasps on the back foot in that rampant first half. Eight carries and eight tackles plus a lineout steal sums up a good day at the office. Sébastian Vahaamahina was Clermont’s top tackler.

4 Maro Itoje (Saracens)Contenders for this spot in Arthur Iturria of Clermont and Munster’s Donnacha Ryan, but Itoje was at his game-dominating best against Glasgow, making his mark on the breakdown time and again while producing 10 carries and 14 tackles. Certainly better at lock than in the back row.

3 John Ryan (Munster)Munster’s best player at Thomond Park, with the 28-year-old having had to bide his time throughout his career stealing the show on a big stage at home to Toulouse. Ryan barged his way over for the early try but just as important made 12 tackles in defence, while relishing his scrum contest up against rising French star Cyril Baille.

2 Tommy Taylor (Wasps)An enormously disappointing day for Wasps in Dublin but Taylor at least gave Dai Young something to smile about after an excellent shift. The England squad member made over 20 tackles and hit his target at the lineout on 13 occasions, on a day where Wasps lost just one throw all game. Schalk Brits was outstanding off the bench for the defending champions.

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens)Much like his brother, is starting to get up to speed and when both Vunipola’s are crossing the gain-line with ease and getting offloads away, defences are going to struggle. Vunipola was Saracens’ top tackler on Sunday with 16, and with no misses either.

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