August 12, 2020, 19:51

Heineken Champions Cup team of 2018/19: Standouts from Saracens lead the charge

Heineken Champions Cup team of 2018/19: Standouts from Saracens lead the charge

As the dust settles on Saracens’ third European title in four years, we pick our best XV from an outstanding Heineken Champions Cup tournament.

From start to finish it was another riveting season and, as you’d expect after their nine-match unbeaten campaign, victors from Mark McCall’s side are at the heart of our team.

Check out the full XV below and have your say on the most influential player of them all…

15. Alex Goode (Saracens)

Let’s start with the newly crowned EPCR European Player of the Year 2019 shall we?

The 31-year-old played every minute of his side’s title-winning campaign and throughout showed (not for the first or last time) what a high-class rugby player he is.

Footwork, positioning, pace and power, he’s got the lot. From day one, Goode anchored Saracens at the back, showed just how lethal he can be going forward and slipped seamlessly into the fly-half role at the quarter-final stage.

The question now is; will this season and his form lead to further international recognition? Only Eddie Jones can answer that one…

14. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse)

This season Cheslin Kolbe repeatedly stunned us all with his astounding feet and the pace that he has in his armoury.

He steps people for fun, he leaves even the strongest of defenders scratching their heads and ripped up the 2018/19 competition when it came to his individual attacking statistics.

Toulouse’s back beat 52 defenders and made 17 clean breaks during his eight outings – needless to say no one else matched those levels.

He also made 509 metres off 61 carries and coupled all of that dynamism with a strong 82 per cent tackle success rate.

13. Alex Lozowski (Saracens)

For those that have watched Alex Lozowski since he broke through at Wasps, Saturday’s Champions Cup final performance will not have been a surprise.

He looked sharp from his first moments in top-flight rugby and took that to a new level at St James’ Park.

This European season his full skill-set has been used including an early mid-match move from the centres to the wing to his goal-kicking.

Lozowski’s opposite number in Newcastle – Garry Ringrose – was also considered for this spot. Both are wise beyond their years and both have plenty more to bring to future Champions Cup parties.

12. Brad Barritt (Saracens)

We’re staying with the champions right now and handing the other place in our midfield to their captain, the warrior that is Brad Barritt.

Barritt is in our XV for his leadership as well as for his unrelenting delivery of excellence.

While he hailed the other leaders in his squad after the final, every member of his team would praise his leadership too.

11. Liam Williams (Saracens)

Where do you start with Liam Williams? Perhaps with ‘that’ tackle and turnover at St James’ Park or perhaps with his ability to defuse a high-ball with his eyes closed and then create a break from nothing?

Wherever you start, the common denominator is that he is the real deal. The Welshman has it all and is another Saracen who relentlessly drives his team’s competitive edge.

With two winners’ medals already secured this season, will 2019 be the year that keeps on delivering for both club and country?

10. Owen Farrell (Saracens)

Pulling the strings at the heart of our XV is the last Saracen that forms part of our backline – Owen Farrell.

From Round 1 at Scotstoun Stadium to the final at St James’ Park, Farrell was his usual tenacious and intense self.

His metronomic boot scored 89 points over the course of the competition and indeed, Farrell was the competition’s highest points-scorer for the fourth season in succession.

In open play, he was as instrumental as ever with his vision, game management and distribution.

9. Antoine Dupont (Toulouse)

Our scrum-half is someone else who played a key role in Toulouse’s resurgence on the European stage.

Dupont’s efforts and effervescence secured himself a place on the long-list for the EPCR European Player of the Year award and his electricity inspired his team-mates.

When the chips were down, and Toulouse had just 14 men on the field against Racing 92 in the quarter-finals, his two tries were the ones that made sure that they reached the last-four.

Toulouse’s high-tempo offloading game was a joy to watch and their scrum-half epitomised their dynamism and joie de vivre.

1. Cian Healy (Leinster Rugby)

It’s been another busy European season for this prop. Cian Healy was part of every one of their nine matches and never gave any of them less than 110 per cent.

Healy’s power at the set piece speaks for itself, he knows all the tricks in the book and has the physicality and nous to perform them. Added to that, his 13 clean breaks highlight what he creates in the loose too.

As a team, Leinster made more metres and beat more defenders than any other side and both of those elements are down to the fact that their forwards, including Healy, are as comfortable on the ball as their backs.

2. Jamie George (Saracens)

Speaking of forwards that are comfortable going forwards, enter stage right Jamie George.

Here’s a man that adds so much to Saracens’ charge, be that through his powerful gainline busts, his miss passes or his deft offloads.

He was successful with 93 of his 98 lineout throws and made 109 of the 119 tackles that he attempted. On top of all of that, George looked like he played the final with one shoulder and highlighted, once again, what a Test match animal he is.

A mention here too for Sean Cronin and his exceptional efforts as he finished as the joint-top scorer in the competition. Cronin’s five-pointers weren’t all easy dot-downs either. Instead, he stretched his legs on countless occasions and went through the gears to cross the whitewash. Outstanding.

Here’s a individual who has retained this jersey from this time last year.

Tadhg Furlong, like every member of our front row, is a modern-day forward and a forward whose game provides so much.

His agility and abilities add a great dynamic to Leinster’s output and as Saracens showed, only the very best in Europe can defuse them.

4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby)

Last season, Tadhg Beirne helped pave the way for Scarlets’ first semi-final in 11 years and since he has thrived in the red of Munster.

The lock, who has just signed a new two-year contract with the Irish province, again topped the competition’s charts for turnovers won – this time around he recorded 15.

He added 96 tackles to that achievement and took more lineouts than any other Munster player over the course of their time in the tournament.

5. James Ryan (Leinster Rugby)

Alongside Beirne is a player who has so much experience at such a young age.

In the final, James Ryan more than stood up to Saracens’ physical test as he did against so many teams throughout the European term.

Ryan finished Leinster’s campaign having made more tackles than any other player in the competition, 142 to be precise, and notched up that number with a cool 93 per cent completion rate.

Elsewhere, only one other player carried more times than he did, plus he beat 10 defenders.

6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster Rugby)

Starting our back row trio is the incredibly reliable and strong leader that is Peter O’Mahony.

Munster may have found themselves wanting against the eventful winners but their captain joins this team for his gutsy work and for his leadership.

He leads an outfit that are so incredibly passionate about this European competition. In turn, that passion must lead to huge pressure (from themselves and externally) and shouldering that alone takes someone special.

His ability to disrupt opponents’ ball is renowned and his accuracy in defence impressive – 88 tackles made and just three missed.

During their campaign, Munster had to grind out some tough wins, including against Exeter and Edinburgh. When the going got tough their captain was right in the thick of it.

7. Jackson Wray (Saracens)

The penultimate place in our XV of the tournament goes to one of Saracens’ unsung heroes.

This man’s drive and work rate is astounding and in a team of ‘stars’, his name isn’t always mentioned when it comes to the post-match headlines.

The flanker, who made his debut for Saracens just four years after turning his hand to rugby, constantly does the ‘tough stuff’ and deservedly now has three European medals to his name.

8. Viliame Mata (Edinburgh Rugby)

This was a close call between two highly impressive No 8s – Billy Vunipola and Viliame Mata.

Despite Vunipola’s powerful performance in Newcastle, Mata’s season statistics are off the charts and most of his rugby is too!

In Edinburgh’s campaign, one that saw them reach the last eight for the first time in seven years, the No 8 mesmerised us all.

He made 478 metres, a number only surpassed by James Lowe, Kolbe and Stockdale, and topped the carrying charts with a staggering 141 carries.

Source: skysports.com

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