Champions Cup team of 2017/18: Finalists Leinster and Racing 92 lead the way
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 13/05/18 10:28pm
As the dust settles on Leinster's fourth European Cup success, we pick our best XV from another memorable tournament.
Six clubs are represented from clubs across Ireland, France and Wales in a team which we think would beat any!
Check out our starting XV below...
15. Chris Ashton (Toulon)
Rob Kearney enjoyed a renaissance year with Leinster, but the top full-back in Europe this year is Ashton, who has been phenomenal for Toulon.
The most lethal finisher in European history, Ashton's shift from wing to full-back has heralded all manner of threats for opposing teams.
He did everything possible at Thomond Park to try and ensure Toulon got round Munster in the quarters, but they just fell short. The best man at tracking runs around.
14. Keith Earls (Munster)
At 30-years-old, Earls perhaps played the best rugby of his life this season as Munster made a record 13th semi-final.
His electric pace, brilliant aerial ability, outstanding acceleration and superb awareness for opportunities - both for him and his team-mates - mark him out in the very top bracket of European performers.
His work-rate in defence for Munster and Ireland this season has also been noteworthy. One of the finest examples of a team man.
13. Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92)
He may have made a couple of mistakes in the final against Leinster, but for the majority of this season he has been devilishly difficult to contain.
Played in his favourite position of outside-centre for the most part, Vakatawa's strength, power and speed of foot, combined with his super hands, make him a player most clubs would love to have.
12. Isa Nacewa (Leinster)
He may have finished the campaign on the wing, but arguably where Nacewa thrived most this season for Leinster was at inside-centre - plus we had to find a way to get him in!
Playing in his final campaign, it was fitting the 35-year-old hit the winning penalty so late on against Racing in the final after his remarkable service to the Irish province.
His performance in the centre against double reigning European champions Saracens during the quarter-final sticks out most. He was magnificent that day.
He now has four European Cup medals...what a career.
11. Nemani Nadolo (Montpellier)
Montpellier may have been knocked out in the pool stages this year, but Nadolo still finished as the tournament's top try scorer following six in six games.
The Fijian's stats for the campaign are quite extraordinary, as he finished top of almost every category dominated by backs - and that without playing a knockout game!
He covered a monstrous 553 metres with ball in hand - 26 more than the next best - beat 38 defenders - eight more than anyone - and made 16 clean breaks - three more than the next.
How do you stop him?!
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
Leinster achieved a record-equalling fourth European crown on Saturday, and at the heart of each success since their first in 2009 has been Sexton.
At 32, the out-half is still as majestic a leader and tactical performer as ever. His will to win is up there with the highest across the globe.
This season, he chipped in with four tries, eight clean breaks and 79 points. But he's so much more than raw stats for Leinster and Ireland.
9. Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92)
It's such a shame that Machenaud missed the final owing to a knee injury, because he had been one of the very best players across Europe leading up to it.
An 88 per cent goalkicker in the Champions Cup this season, the 29-year-old's general kicking game is now also at a level to rival the best in the world, while his work and physicality defensively is invaluable for Racing.
A real class act of a player.
1. Dany Priso (La Rochelle)
Cian Healy can count himself unlucky, but La Rochelle's Priso was exceptional in his first Champions Cup campaign this season.
The 24-year-old is a ferocious scrummager, deceptively quick, and fantastic in the loose. He proved so good for La Rochelle during the pool stages, he forced his way onto the Test scene for France during the Six Nations.
Priso was the epitome of everything that was great about La Rochelle, watch out for them next year.
2. Camille Chat (Racing 92)
What a player Chat is developing into. Still just 22-years-old, the hooker is a battering ram with ball in hand but also has the subtlety to produce offloads and pieces of skill which quite often result in devastating consequences for the opposition.
Chat made 78 tackles in Europe this season and seemingly never stopped running. He makes a mockery of the suggestion that Racing's players lack fitness.
A marvellous campaign from a player to look out for going forward.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
No debate here. By far and away, Furlong has been the best tighthead prop in Europe this season, and probably the best in the world.
After a Grand Slam-winning campaign and Champions Cup success - plus he's a three-Test Lion - he could even be in the running for the next World Player of the Year gong, he's that good.
It's no longer hyperbole to suggest the 25-year-old is beginning to revolutionise the role of tighthead. A case in point, his scrummaging has been top notch but he also made some 73 carries in Europe this season - placing him 18th in the top 25 carries by all players...and he's a tighthead prop!
4. Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets)
Scarlets made history by getting to a first semi-final in 11 years and, in large part, that was down to the astounding performances of Beirne.
Indeed if Scarlets had made the final, Beirne would most likely have collected the player of the year award such was the calibre of his displays.
The Irishman made 94 tackles, scored three tries, stole two lineouts and earned an amazing 18 turnovers in Europe's premier competition - seven more than any other player. He simply could not be left out of this team.
5. Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92)
Very harsh on Leinster's James Ryan, but 2018's official European Player of the Year Nakarawa, like Beirne, simply cannot be left out.
The Fijian is a truly unique talent and his stats for the season say as much.
The second row made 124 carries - second only to Munster's CJ Stander in the entire tournament - and threw a competition high 22 offloads - a whole 10 more than anyone else.
He scored four tries and claimed 38 lineouts, stealing four - second only to Peter O'Mahony in both respects - and, perhaps most incredibly, he beat 23 defenders - only four players (backs) beat more!
He's a joy to watch.
6. Scott Fardy (Leinster)
We've cheated here a tad in that Fardy began the competition in the second row, but finished it on the blindside for Leinster's quarter-final, semi-final and final victories over Saracens, Scarlets and Racing.
What an incredible signing the Australian has been for Leinster. He excels at the dirty work necessary to win championships, and also pitched in with three tries.
A leader, key lineout operator and, the majority of the time, the hardest working player on the pitch.
7. Dan Leavy (Leinster)
It's been mentioned before, but up until the new year this season, Leavy found himself behind Sean O'Brien and Josh van der Flier in the Leinster pecking order.
He's ended it as one of the standout players in Europe, a Grand Slam winner and European champion.
Like Fardy, Leavy's engine is incessant, and his work at the breakdown has been key to Leinster beating all they've faced.
In a slog of a final, he finished with the most carries and most tackles of any player. He stood up when the going got as tough as possible.
8. Yannick Nyanga (Racing 92)
Nyanga seemed to confirm at the post-match press conferences in Bilbao that he will retire at the end of this season.
If that is the case, he might want to have a little rethink! The 34-year-old has been magnificent for the Parisians.
His turn of pace is still tremendous, and he carries the ball like a player a decade his junior. At the lineout, he has been one of the best backrow players around.
His tears at the end of the final told you all you need to know of how hard he has worked this year. Chapeau Yannick.