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Monday Apr 15, 2024

Rugbydump's investec champions cup quarterfinals team of the week

And then there were four… In what was the most remarkable weekend of Investec Champions Cup quarterfinal action in recent years, all four winning teams score more than 40 points to book their place in the semi-finals.

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Getting underway in the scorching heat of Bordeaux, Harlequins piped the hosts in what was a remarkable back and forth contest 42 – 41. This victory builds on last week’s first ever knockout victory and will send the Londoners to the final four for the first time in their long and storied history with the competition.

Hours later and Irish powerhouse Leinster undid three years of hurt by collecting their second win of the season over former bogey team La Rochelle. In simple terms the Dublin quarterfinal was an annihilation of epic proportions as the men in blue cruised to a 40 – 13 win.

Nipping across the Irish Sea, the English midlands saw one of their own return to the last four for the first time in over a decade as the Northampton Saints crushed a second-string Vodacom Bulls outfit 59 -22. In what was a tetchy affair, the Saints showed their ruthless edge as they sliced and diced their visitors for the full eighty minutes.

Concluding the action, Sunday’s only fixture would see Toulouse put to bed a plucky and coming force in the Exeter Chiefs. Struggling to gain separation from their less fancied visitors for the first 55 minutes, Toulouse burst into action in a 20-minute blitz that saw them put a gloss on a 64 – 26 scoreline.

As ever, when the action is of such a high-quality team, picking a team of the round was a challenge, but here is Rugbydump’s crack at a world-class XV.

15. Blair Kinghorn – Toulouse

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The Scottish flyer looks to have settled in beautifully with the French giants and looks to have no intention of just handing the number 15 shirt back to Thomas Ramos. Finishing off two sublime tries to go with his strong day from the kicking tee, Kinghorn looks to take the next step as a world-class fullback.

A double for the king as Toulouse edge closer to the throne

14. Ollie Slightholme – Northampton Saints

You heard it here, the Northampton Saint is the best winger in England… No ifs, no buts; he is truly remarkable. Seemingly unstoppable at the first point of contact, the well-built flyer takes some stopping. Throw into the mix his exceptional handling, play in the air and footwork and one sees a winger that is the full package.

13. Tommy Freeman – Northampton Saints

Could this be his best position going forward? Have England found their next powerhouse centre to take over from Manu Tuilagi? Sure, most of his best performances have come on the wing, but Freeman looks every bit as comfortable in the centres as he does out wide. Utilising his eye for a soft shoulder, power and pace, Freeman could well be England’s 13 come their tour of New Zealand.

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12. Pita Ahki – Toulouse

An ageless wonder, the now 31-year-old looks as good as he ever has, which is great news for the five-time champions and Tongan Rugby. His work at the contact point is just so silky smooth that you could count on one hand how few times he doesn’t get over the gainline in a season.

11. James Lowe – Leinster

Just edging the coming force, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, the Leinster winger, is at that sweet spot in his career where the game looks to be going in slow motion for him. Seeing the action two to three phases ahead, always finding space with his kicks, and being lethal when it comes to finishing, the 31-year-old is truly world-class.

10. Ross Byrne – Leinster

Without a shadow of a doubt his best performance in the blue shirt, Ross has now separated himself from younger brother Harry and other contenders Ciaran Frawley and Sam Prendergast as the undisputed kingpin at Leinster. Taking the ball to the line masterfully, finding space with his tactical kicking and tackling like his life depended on it, Byrne had a complete afternoon on Saturday.

Leinster shred La Rochelle in Dublin to secure semi-final spot

9. Jamison Gibson-Park – Leinster

Edging the scrumhalves of the other winning teams, who were all immense, JGP might well have overtaken Dupont as the best scrumhalf in the world. Yes, Dupont is a freak, but when it comes to pure scrumhalf play, the Leinster nine looks to be ahead. Whether it is his support lines, box kicking or passing, he rarely puts in less than a 9/10 performance. Given how frequently he touches the ball this level of consistency is nearly impossible to comprehend truly.

8. Alex Dombrandt – Harlequins

The moment every Quins fan has been waiting for… Anyone who has tracked Dombrandt’s career will know that his unlimited potential has been flashed but rarely fully unlocked. On Saturday against a potent Bordeaux side in the heat with a raucous crowd, Dombrandt was the best player by quite some distance. His ability to break through tackles whilst having the wherewithal to find a support runner is a key weapon for a Quins side that feasts on open play and chaos.

7. Jack Willis – Toulouse

Oh, what Steve Borthwick wouldn’t do to get Willis back on his squad. Whilst Ben Earl has been god-like this season and other backrows such as Chandler Cunningham-South have flashed, Willis combines the best of all of the other England backrow options. His monstrous carrying ability, his work at the breakdown and his power at set piece are too good not to be used on the test stage. You know what to do RFU… Make it happen!

6. Juarno Augustus – Northampton Saints

Shock! Horror! Another incredible South African backrow who will almost certainly be smashing players in the green and gold soon is becoming a dominant force for an English club. The former DHL Stormer is one of those old-school, no-nonsense hard hitters in the mould of an Andre Venter. Relishing the opportunity to face his countrymen on the weekend, Augustus taught the highly touted Cameron Hanekom a thing or two about physically dominating a fixture from start to finish.

5. Joe McCarthy – Leinster

Don’t say it…. Apologies for battling my inner monologue here, but… Ah, screw it! Joe McCarthy will be the greatest ever Irish secondrow when it is all said and done. The 23-year-old 6’6″ and 125kg beast is only getting better with every outing and brings a hard edge to the Leinster pack that has previously been reserved for foreign imports. Yes, the men in blue miss the physicality and set-piece ability of James Ryan, but in Joe McCarthy, they finally have someone capable of going toe-to-toe with the Will Skelton, Emmanuel Meafous and Eben Etzebeths of this world.

4. Emmanuel Meafou – Toulouse

Wallabies fans just skip this portion of the article… The French international is now a bully in the best possible sense. Picking up, throwing, and generally manhandling opponents are all part of the ‘big manny’ show! What perhaps gets lost in post-match reports and soliloquies about his strongman-level power is how brilliant the 6’8′ and 150kg lock is as a ball player. Luring defenders into believing that he is about to clatter into their D line, Meafous frequently pulls the ball back before finding one of Toulouse’s spicy backs on a loop play. Still just 25-years-old; expect him to be a dominant force for the foreseeable future.

3. Tadhg Furlong – Leinster

Back to his best! Ireland’s greatest-ever tighthead prop nullified the La Rochelle scrum with masterful precision on Saturday. Looking refreshed, Furlong, along with his prop compatriot Andrew Porter are the two most important players for Leinster and Ireland. Not only are they both phenomenal but the drop off from them to the next line is worryingly significant.

2. Dan Sheehan – Leinster

The best hooker in the world?… Yes, Malcolm Marx, Peato Mauvaka, Julian Marchand, and clubmate Ronan Kelleher will have a say here, but it is hard to argue that Sheehan isn’t up there. Never before has Irish Rugby had a player with such dynamism in the position that they effectively have another centre in their team. His ability to match the La Rochelle forwards at the set piece before outclassing them in the loose says it all.

Ireland star Dan Sheehan signs new contract with Irish Rugby

1. Cyrill Baile – Toulouse

The French anchor just edges out Andrew Porter this week for our number one shirt. Seemingly everywhere on the pitch, we implore you to watch how many breakdowns, tackles and carries the big man has each week. In simple terms, it is off the charts and is arguably the most underrated part of what makes the black and red machine tick.

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