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Thursday Apr 18, 2024

The ultimate uncapped Investec Champions Cup XV

And breathe… This will be the sentiment for the four remaining teams in this year’s Investec Champions Cup.

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Gearing up for their titanic semi-final match-ups, Leinster, Northampton, Toulouse and Harlequins will no doubt put their best foot forward in their respective leagues over the next fortnight but will be hyper-aware of what lies just around the corner.

Unsurprisingly, the four remaining squads have several top-class international talent within their ranks.

Whilst the internationals will routinely grab the headlines, the Champions Cup presents an opportunity for the next generation of stars to prove that they can mix it with the big names in professional rugby.

Thus, with so much talent on show, we at Rugbydump got thinking about who would crack an ultimate uncapped XV.

So, without further ado, here is our 2024 ultimate uncapped Investec Champions Cup XV.

15. Tyrone Green – Harlequins & South Africa

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The former SA U20 representative has gone from an unheralded squad player to an undroppable starter for Quins this season. Shredding opposition defences, marshalling the Quin’s defence and kicking masterfully, the nippy fullback has a similar style to Springbok legend Willie Le Roux… Watch this space.

14. Romain Buros – Bordeaux-Begles & France

One of Bordeaux’s few non-international backs, the former France U20 standout cannot be too far from Fabien Galthie’s thoughts, having already been in the squad back in 2021. Given that Galthie has already signalled his intention to take an experimental side to South America this summer, expect the 26-year-old to get his shot.

13. Jamie Osborne – Leinster & Ireland

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Often spoken about in hush tones so as not to stir Irish Rugby fans’ illogical fear of rushing youngsters into the limelight, the elder Osborne brother is the real deal (as are his brothers…). Showcasing his full bag of tricks as La Rochelle banished their La Rochelle hoodoo to the shadow realms, Osborne proved once again that he is ready for the big time.

12. Alex Nankivell – Munster & New Zealand

If the new All Blacks boss, Scott Robertson, gets his way to change New Zealand’s selection policy, the former Chief must surely be taken into consideration. Bringing a hard edge to the Munster backline, his combination with Antoine Frisch has been sublime so far this season. Offering a true jackaling threat and a powerful carrying game he has been the perfect inside centre for Joey Carbery and Jack Crowley this season.

11. Ollie Sleightholme – Northampton Saints & England

Likely to have already been an international had serious injuries not got in his way, Sleightholme might just be the most impressive uncapped player so far this season. Nearly impossible to stop on the first impact, the powerhouse winger has out-and-out gas and all of the skills to wreak havoc for opposition defences. Speaking of the defensive side of the ball, good luck to any ball carriers coming down his channel.

10. Harvey Skinner – Exeter Chiefs & England

Stepping out of Joe Simmonds’s shadow, Skinner is capturing his best form this season and has been instrumental in the Chief’s rebirth as a title contender. Now 26 years old, Skinner has been with the Chiefs his whole career to date and joins the ever-increasing list of potential flyhalf options for England head coach Steve Borthwick.

9. Paul de Wet – DHL Stormers & South Africa

If Rassie Erasmus wants to add a fifth scrumhalf to his squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship, he could do worse than the 28-year-old de Wet. Certainly, there are younger players who are more likely to play test rugby than the Stormers sniping runner, but there can be no denying his rise over the past three seasons with the Stormers.

8. Cameron Hanekom – Vodacom Bulls & South Africa/Wales

South African Rugby’s (or Welsh Rugby’s…) latest backrow sensation nearly broke the rugby twitterspehere earlier this season with his incredible performances. As head coach Jake White said, Hanekom is his first choice, number eight when fit, which is some statement that gives the Bulls backrow options. At 6’4″ and 110kg, the 21-year-old already has all of the physical tools needed to hit the test rugby arena.

7. John Hodnett – Munster & Ireland

The man from West Cork is almost impossibly still uncapped despite his incredible performances over the past three seasons. Sure, playing behind a former World Player of The Year and about a million other top-class backrows in Ireland doesn’t help, but Hodnett is different to his competitors. Not the biggest backrow still packs an unbelievable punch and brings a level of dynamism close to that of the brilliant Sean O’Brien in his heyday.

6. Juarno Augustus – Northampton Saints & South Africa

If anyone thinks Uncle Rassie isn’t keeping close tabs on the Saints’ backrow, then they are sorely mistaken. Yes, South African Rugby has unlimited resources in this department, but Augustus’s performances in an exceptional Northampton pack have been out of this world. His level of physicality is through the roof, whilst his rugby smarts and defensive ability would fit right into the Bok set-up.

5. Thomas Ahern – Munster & Ireland

Another player who would’ve almost certainly been capped had it not been for injury, the 6’10” utility forward is one of the most exciting prospects in Irish Rugby (yes, you heard us Leinster fans!). Freakishly athletic and super comfortable in the wider channels, Ahern offers Andy Farrell another Ryan Baird-style player who would be super useful for a 6-2 bench to counter the Springboks later this year.

4. Rus Tuima – Exeter Chiefs & England/ Fiji

A very different style player to his lock partner for this exercise, the 23-year-old powerhouse is the Exeter Chiefs pack next cornerstone player. Offering that necessary oomph to get over the gainline, the Fijian-born giant will likely be an English senior international in the coming seasons.

3. Carlu Sadie – Bordeaux-Begles & South Africa

Another potential Springbok perfecting his trade in European leagues, Sadie is an absolute unit, tipping the scales at nearly 150kg… Playing alongside Tongan powerhouse Ben Tameifuna for a high-flying Bordeaux squad, the 26-year-old feels like the next prop option for the Bok bomb squad.

2. Johan Grobbelaar – Vodacom Bulls & South Africa

Benefitting from the terrific set-up being put in place by Jake White, Grobbelaar is learning his trade from the highly experienced Akker van der Merwe. Like any good hooker, Grobbelaar is a menace at the back of a maul and around the breakdown and will be looking to take the step up to international rugby, having already been in a Springbok alignment camp this year.

1. Louis Penverne – La Rochelle & France

La Rochelle’s latest front-row phenom, the 21-year-old started both of his team’s knockout matches this year. Although he looks rather small next to the giant Uini Antonio, the 111kg former France U20 player will no doubt continue to develop physically. In the meantime, he is more than capable of holding his own at set piece time and is a super dynamic ball carrier in a similar mould to Ellis Genge or a younger Cian Healy.

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