2023 Stade Rochelais vs Leinster Rugby

Top 14 Clubs In 2023-2024 Champions Cup: Previews, Predictions, Matchups

Top 14 Clubs In 2023-2024 Champions Cup: Previews, Predictions, Matchups

The French sides competing in the Champions Cup this year will be looking to stay the course and keep an iron grip on the throne as kings of European rugby.

Dec 6, 2023 by Briar Napier
Top 14 Clubs In 2023-2024 Champions Cup: Previews, Predictions, Matchups

France has won more EPCR Champions Cup titles than any other nation, including each of the past three.

Can the run of success continue for the 2023-2024 competition, too?

The addition of South African clubs through the United Rugby Championship did little to slow France’s recent dominance of Europe’s top continental rugby competition, with La Rochelle defeating Ireland’s Leinster for the second straight year to capture the crown a season ago.

Pool play kicks off this weekend in the newest edition of the competition, and with a rekindled format — four pools of six teams, instead of two pools of 12 — ready to shake things up, the eight French sides competing in the Champions Cup this year will be looking to stay the course and keep an iron grip on the throne as kings of European rugby.

Here’s a look at all of the Top 14 clubs competing in the Champions Cup. The grind to the 2023-2024 final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in May starts now:


Having qualified for the Champions Cup by finishing eighth in the Top 14 a season ago, Bayonne usually is more focused on staying up in the top flight, rather than making a European push, having been in Pro D2 just two years ago. 

L’Aviron could sneak into the knockouts or drop down to the Challenge Cup in Pool C play, which it kicks off against the Glasgow Warriors on Friday, but a quick exit wouldn’t be surprising — and secretly may be preferred. 

Prediction: Pool stage


Bordeaux has a tough draw in Pool A against the likes of Saracens, Connacht (which it plays Friday) and the Bulls, but the club’s talent — including superstar signing Damian Penaud and Les Bleus fly-half Matthieu Jalibert — gives it at least a fighting chance against anyone in the field. 

An 0-4 record and pool stage exit in last season’s Champions Cup should give Bordeaux that extra bit of motivation to perform, as well.

Prediction: Quarterfinals

La Rochelle

The two-time defending champion of the competition still should be one of the favorites to take the title for a third consecutive time, even though Les Maritimes’ Top 14 campaign hasn’t gone according to plan thus far. 

A brutal Pool D will make that push even harder, though, and La Rochelle will be challenged right from the start when it faces Leinster — which it has met in the past two Champions Cup finals — on Sunday.

Prediction: Semifinals


Though Lyon was knocked out of Pool A in last season’s iteration of the Champions Cup, it is beginning to understand the power and methods behind a deep European run. 

Case in point: Lyon won the Challenge Cup in 2022 for its first piece of European silverware and made a run to the competition’s quarterfinals last year, too. 

Can it repeat similar feats in this season’s Champions Cup? 

Pool A will be tough (it starts play there against the Bristol Bears on Saturday), though a knockout-round spot isn’t an impossible task. 

Prediction: Pool stage

Racing 92

Racing 92 is in a bit of a dilemma right now — should it hone in on a possible charge for a domestic crown, or should it put a bunch of resources toward a European push, too? 

It tried pulling it off once already to solid success in 2016, winning the Top 14 but losing the Champions Cup final, and as it currently leads the Top 14 table heading into the first European fixtures of the season, the question is rearing its head once again. 

A deep and exciting squad, however, should give Racing 92 (which faces Harlequins on Sunday) plenty of firepower to work with as it makes its choice.

Prediction: Round of 16

Stade Francais

The so-called “Pool of Death” in Pool D features numerous continental powers Stade Francais will need to go up against, including South Africa’s Stormers, the Leicester Tigers and a loaded Leinster side to go with fellow French compatriots La Rochelle. 

Returning to the competition after a year away, the Parisians (who face the Sale Sharks on Sunday) have a tough welcome back, but there is a route to the knockouts, if they continue to play similarly to how they’ve performed during their hot domestic start, which has featured six wins from nine matches. 

Prediction: Pool stage


Remember, it was less than a decade ago that Toulon was winning three consecutive Champions Cup titles, being one of the continent’s most dominant forces of the 2010s. 

Following three Challenge Cup final appearances in the past four years — including a win last year against the Glasgow Warriors for Toulon’s first major trophy since the 2015 Champions Cup — there could be some parallels, especially with Toulon back in the Champions Cup for the first time in three years. 

Pool C, starting with a match against the Exeter Chiefs on Saturday, is ripe for the taking, too.

Prediction: Round of 16


Another Champions Cup, another year in which Toulouse will be at the forefront of the conversation as a threat to go all the way. 

The five-time winners and defending Top 14 champions have been rocked by injuries to start the year, but the quality that permeates through Europe’s most successful club is still top-notch. 

Toulouse should comfortably get out of the pool stages (as it starts Pool B play Saturday against Cardiff) and be bound for another deep knockout-round run.

Prediction: Final