Premiership Rugby

Heineken Champions Cup Winners List As European Championship Nears

Heineken Champions Cup Winners List As European Championship Nears

Here's A Heineken Cup Winners List As European Rugby Semifinals Nears.

Apr 12, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Heineken Champions Cup Winners List As European Championship Nears

Club Rugby’s great competition has provided countless moments of rugby excellence since making its debut in 1995.

Producing thirteen Champions from three nations, few competitions in professional sport capture the imagination quite like the Heineken Champions Cup. 

But who are the most successful teams in the competition’s history, do we hear you say? Here is a full list of the champions from years gone by, starting with the first champions through to the most recent. 

Toulouse - 1995/96, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2009/10, 2020/21

Five-time champions Toulouse remains the most successful club in the competition's esteemed history. 

Winning the inaugural competition back in the 1995/96 season, the French giants have gone on to lift the trophy at the end of the 2002/03, 2004/05, 2009/10 and 2020/21 seasons. 

Having once again qualified for the semi-finals with a squad packed with world-class talent, they remain on course to win their sixth title in Dublin later this year. 

Brive – 1996/97

Despite currently sitting in last place in the highly competitive French Top 14 competition, Brive have a colourful past that is the rival of any club. 

Winning the second competition in 1996/97, Brive overcame English side Leicester Tigers in dominant fashion as they romped to a 28 – 9 win in the final. 

Led by the competition’s top try scorer Sebastian Carrat, the team from central France played an expansive and entertaining game as they dominated all comers from start to finish. 

Bath Rugby – 1997/98 

The first non-French team to win the competition would be English Premiership side Bath.

Stacked with a squad full of English internationals, the West Country club edged the previous season’s champions, Brive, to top pool 3 by a single point. 

Following a rather smooth run through the quarter and semi-final series, Bath would once again come face-to-face with Brive.

In a mirror image of their tight pool game contests, Bath would edge the defending champions by a single point.

Ulster Rugby – 1998/99 

Adding a third flag to the winner’s circle was Ireland’s northern province Ulster who became the 1997/98 champions. 

Spearheaded by the tactical genius that was flyhalf David Humphreys, the Ulstermen edged Toulouse in Pool 3 by one point as the competition once again proved to be immensely competitive. 

The two sides would then be drawn to play each other in the quarterfinal stages, where Ulster took the contest by two points. 

From here, it would be slightly smoother for Ulster, who defeated French opposition in both the semi-final and final, to record a historic season for the province. 

Northampton Saints – 1999/00 

England’s second champions would bring in the new Millennium in rather unusual fashion as they edged Irish side Munster by just one point in the final. Albeit they scraped home courtesy of Munster flyhalf Ronan O’Gara having an unusually off day from the kicking tee.  

Never quite coming through in comfortable fashion throughout the play-off series, winning their three knockout games by an accumulative seven points. The Saints proved their big-game temperament making their victory all the sweeter. 

Leicester Tigers – 2000/01, 2001/02

It would prove to be third time lucky for the losing finalists from 1996/97 as they picked up where their midlands rivals left off a season previous. 

The Tigers would go on to establish themselves as European Rugby royalty as they picked up a first-ever back-to-back set of titles.  

The Premiership heavyweights are renowned for their dogged approach to the game, scraping for every inch whilst refusing to back down to more fancied opponents. The Tigers are an easy team for the neutral to root for. 

In addition to their club success, the spine of this Tigers side would go on to provide the bulk of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning squad. 

Wasp Rugby – 2003/04, 2006/07 

Continuing English Rugby’s domination of the early 2000s, Wasp RFC would become the fourth English club to lift the title. 

Led by the irresistible force that is Lawrence Dallaglio, Wasps (formerly known as London Wasps) were the flash boys of English Rugby. 

Unlike their grunty English midlands rivals Leicester and Northampton, this side gave the ball some air as they took on opponents not only upfront but out wide.  

Edging Munster 37 – 32 in a highly entertaining semi-final, Wasps took that energy into the final, where they held off Toulouse 27 – 20 to record a famous victory. 

The Londoner's second title would come courtesy of a dominant 25 – 9 final win over Leicester as they capped a season in which they were truly dominant. 

Munster Rugby – 2005/06, 2007/08 

Irish rugby’s answer to the Tigers, Munster, would join their English rivals in picking up a first title in their third final. 

Buoyed by a dominant pack, Munster would top pool 1 by the narrowest of margins as they edged English side Sale on points difference alone. 

Drawn as the fourth seed amongst the quarterfinalists, Munster secured an all-important home quarterfinal. 

In a game where Ronan O’Gara put to rest the demons of Munster’s 1999/00 final loss. The Irish flyhalf slotted four penalties and a conversion to brush past French side Perpignan. 

From here, Munster would go on to blitz Irish rivals Leinster 30 – 6 in the semi-final before seeing off perennial contenders Biarritz 23 – 19 in a tense final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. 

Building on this famous victory, Munster’s red army would become renowned as the greatest travelling support in the competition whilst also creating a fortress at their home ground of Thomond Park. 

This support would propel them to their second title, where they edged English side Saracens 18 – 16 away from home before once again winning a final in the Millennium Stadium as they defeated Toulouse 16 – 13. 

Leinster Rugby – 2008/09, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2017/18 

Ireland’s third champions may have taken their time to win a title, but oh boy, have they since delivered. 

Having long been regarded as the bridesmaids of Irish and European Rugby as they watched their rivals, most notably Munster, record famous victories. The Dublin city boys just couldn’t seem to put it together despite their obvious talent. 

Possessing some of the finest attacking talents in the game, with names such as Brian O’Driscoll, Felipe Contepomi and Gordon D’Arcy populating the team sheet. Few could understand why this team couldn’t get over the hump and fulfil their obvious destiny. 

This would all change when one Jonathan Sexton came onto the scene…. The now legendary Irish flyhalf and the captain took the squad by the scruff of the neck as they were on the precipice of yet another disappointing end to the season as they trailed Northampton heavily in the final. 

Becoming the architect for the greatest comeback in Heineken Cup history, Sexton etched his name into Irish sporting folklore as Leinster floored the Saints and, with it got the heaviest of monkeys off their back. 

Since then, the men in blue have gone on to win three more titles to sit just one behind Toulouse in the all-time title holders list.  

Now set to square off with Toulouse in this season’s semi-final, the drive for five could yet bring them level as the greatest Heineken Champions Cup club of all time.  

Toulon – 2012/13, 2013/14,2014/15

Hands down, the greatest three-year run of any side in the competition’s history saw Rugby’s answer to an all-stars side dominate the competition for three consecutive titles. 

Spearheaded by some of the game’s greatest names, such as Johnny Wilkinson, Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, and the list goes on. Toulon would prove that, yes, in fact, money can buy titles. 

Coming from relative obscurity, the French Mediterranean side was bankrolled by French business tycoon Mourad Boudjella. Attracting the biggest names both on the field and in the coach’s box, Toulon became the envy of teams the world over as they dominated all before them. 

Since then, Boudjella has stepped away from the club, and with it, the team has taken somewhat of a dive. Having yet to return to a final, whilst dominant, the Toulon success story was fleeting and unlike any we have ever seen. 

Saracens – 2015/16, 2016/17, 2018/19 

English Rugby’s bad boys picked up where Toulon left off as one of the big spenders in European Rugby. 

In their pomp, Sarries were a frightening prospect for even the staunchest of opposition. Bulldozing their way through opponents with unrivalled physicality, the North London club came ever so close to matching Toulon’s threepeat. 

Falling to Leinster in the 2017/18 quarterfinals was the only blemish of Saracen’s four-year stretch. That was, of course until they were found guilty of cheating the English Premiership salary cap and, with it relegated from the English topflight for a season. 

Now back in both the Premiership and Champions Cup, Sarries are once again contenders, albeit not quite at their previous level. Having just fallen short away to La Rochelle in this season’s quarterfinal, the Londoners look to once again be building… 

Exeter Chiefs - 2019/20 

Often forgotten due to the covid-19 pandemic are the Exeter Chiefs, who are one of rugby’s feel-good clubs, having worked their way through the English lower league system. 

Now fully fledged rugby giants, the Chiefs were deserving champions in the 2019/20 season, having defeated two of France’s biggest spending clubs in Racing92 and Toulouse in the semi-final and final. 

Playing a highly efficient, no-nonsense, pressure game, the Chiefs squeezed opponents before striking with their deadly attacking. 

Now once again in the business end of the season, as they brace for a titanic semi-final struggle with La Rochelle, the Chiefs are England’s last remaining hope in the 2022/23 season. 

La Rochelle – 2021/22 

Led by Munster legend Ronan O’Gara, La Rochelle is the French equivalent of Exeter, having worked their way through the French system over the past decade. 

Despite being the new kids on the block, La Rochelle is one of the most complete sides in the game and, unlike Toulon, is here to stay. 

Sure, they are financed by a business tycoon (like many other French sides), but this team are so much more than that. Having clearly captured the imagination of the locals, La Rochelle is one of the most physically imposing and tactical squads in the competition. 

Yet, their most defining feature is their never die say attitude, which is what has seen them contest the past two finals and likely will see them to a third final this season. 

For the neutral, a repeat of last season’s final between them and Leinster would make for mouth-watering viewing, given it took until the last play of the game to separate the two sides.