Premiership Rugby

Investec Champions Cup: Power Rankings After Two Rounds

Investec Champions Cup: Power Rankings After Two Rounds

Here are the power rankings after the first two rounds of the 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup, as the competition hits it's midpoint for the pool stages.

Dec 18, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Investec Champions Cup: Power Rankings After Two Rounds

The opening two rounds of the 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup brought thrills and spills aplenty. 

Teams overperformed, while others flattered to deceive, but one thing that remained a constant is that the competition remains as competitive as ever. Even the so-called minnows of club rugby’s blue-chip competition stood up and were counted. 

With a three-week break now scheduled in for the festive period, here are our first FloRugby Investec Champions Cup power rankings:

1. Toulouse 

The reigning French champions swept the floor with their opening two opponents, Cardiff and Harlequins. 

They end the fortnight with the biggest points differential (78) and sit pretty with 10 log points atop Pool 2. 

The biggest, and possibly only question, surrounding the team is when Antoine Dupont will depart for the French 7s setup. 

2. Leinster Rugby 

The back-to-back runners-up shifted the 500-pound gorilla that is their abysmal record against La Rochelle, turning over Ronan O’Gara’s team away from home in Round 1. 

That performance was as good as any we have seen from the team that arguably has been the standard bearer for this competition since 2009. 

A less-than-inspiring win against a second-string Sale Sharks will not set alarm bells ringing, given the expected come down from the emotional high of the week before. 

3. Vodacom Bulls 

Lord help any team that travels to Pretoria, as Jake White’s herd is impossible to stop when they get their tails up. 

Simply put, the Bulls stampeded over a gutsy Saracens team in Round 1, before completely changing the team and losing by a heartbreaking one-point margin a week later in Lyon. 

While White has been pragmatic about rotating his squad, this team is a title contender knows a home playoff route is crucial to its success. 

4. Bordeaux-Begles 

The surprise package of the competition so far, the star studded French side is the attacking darling of this season. 

Trailing behind Toulouse in the points difference tally with 55, they, too, have 10 log points and have a very realistic route to the top spot in the pool. 

From there, a home run through the playoffs could culminate with a trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

5. Saracens 

Saracens does not have the best record of the English teams, having lost in Round 1, but let’s be real here, it's still the best team in England and has the most realistic chance at winning this competition. 

Their pack is robust and physical, while the backline, guided by England superstar Owen Farrell, is playing an attacking brand of running unlike anything it has produced before. 

They will need to shore up their defense, but expect Sarries to be there, or thereabouts, come season's end. 

6. Sale Sharks 

The current Premiership table toppers gave Leinster all it could handle with an inexperienced side and will be a handful when its stars are back. 

Crucially, that performance in Dublin proved the Sharks have a squad that is deep enough to contend for the first time since the mid-2000s. 

As Ben Curry told us at the Investec Champions Cup day, the Sharks have a big pack, and we are pretty sure they won’t take a step back for anyone. 

7. Bath 

The first of the English surprise packages, Johan van Graan’s side has all of the weapons needed to win trophies. 

His physical pack, which is spearheaded by dynamic props Thomas Du Toit and Beno Obano, can contend with anyone, while Finn Russell, Ollie Lawrence and company can rip defenses to shreds at a moment’s notice. 

If you want to take a punt on a team, Bath is an excellent outside option. 

8. DHL Stormers 

Sending a heavy second-string side to Leicester and losing by nine points is not ideal, but it is not a disaster. 

What is ideal is defeating the defending champions with the final kick of the match. 

This team has so much quality but is slightly lacking in the front row, since Steven Kitshoff’s defection to Ulster. 

Like the Bulls, a home playoff run is non-negotiable for a deep run; with this in mind, Round 3 away to Sale is a massive challenge. 

9. Leicester Tigers 

The 2022 Premiership champions are getting back to their roots with a physical pack and a pragmatic, but highly efficient, backline. 

Two-time Rugby World Cup-winner Handre Pollard has been a huge sign for the Tigers, and his big-game temperament will be a major asset as the season progresses. 

10. Ulster Rugby 

The most unpredictable team in the competition, capable of beating literally any team in one week or losing in head-scratching fashion. 

The Ulstermen have all of the required components to push for a title but just don’t quite have the consistency of sides such as Leinster or Toulouse. 

Thumping Racing 92 a week after a tough loss to Bath puts Dan McFarland’s team back on the front foot, but the question is, can it stay there? 

11. Exeter Chiefs 

Simply magnificent, director of rugby Rob Baxter has done a sterling job with a young squad, as he is rebuilding the Chiefs machine from the ground up. 

Losing just about all of their frontline stars save for Henry Slade, little was expected from the Chiefs this season. Yet here we are, and the Chiefs are undefeated and playoff bound. 

It is hard to imagine they can keep it up when the going gets tougher, but we are not brave enough to bet against them. 

12. Northampton Saints

Another of the Premiership’s undefeated teams, the Saints, traveled to Glasgow and thoroughly outclassed an in-form Warriors side. 

A week later, they showed their resilience to hold off a Toulon side in desperate need of a win. 

This is a playoff team, with Courtney Lawes playing some outrageous rugby. They certainly will be favorites against Bayonne at home before a road trip to Munster in the final round. 

13. Munster Rugby 

Outside of La Rochelle (more on them later…), the reigning URC champions only have themselves to blame for the predicament they find themselves in, squandering two solid leads to leave the opening round with a draw and the second round with a single point. 

Graham Rowntree and his coaches have shown an ability to flourish in hardship, and it is in Munster players' DNA to come out swinging when doubted. 

Round 3 away to Toulon is a must-win, as is the final round at home against the Saints. Stay tuned. 

14. Glasgow Warriors 

A tough side to assess following its relative no-show in the face of intense Northampton pressure in Round 1, a gutsy road win against Bayonne was a much-needed result, but not one that inspires too much confidence for a sustained campaign. 

There are plenty of quality players on the Warriors squad, but battling on two fronts is a step too far for the club. 

15. Lyon 

Like Ulster, Lyon’s range of outcomes is significant. 

A late two-point loss away to Bristol, courtesy of a Calum Sheedy drop goal, was a kick in the teeth, but a week later, a one-point win over a heavily rotated Bulls side evened the scores.

They have the feel of a quarterfinal team if things go their way, but question marks likely will remain until they get there. 

16. La Rochelle 

Two brutally tough losses has taken the wind out of the back-to-back champions' sails. 

A titanic struggle with Leinster in biblical weather, followed by a six-day turnaround and a 6,000-mile trip to a 30C Cape Town would always be a big ask, yet they still came within 10 seconds of victory - only for Manie Libbok’s touchline conversion for the Stormers. 

Hosting a red-hot Leicester before traveling to tackle a powerhouse Sale is about as tough as it gets, and while they certainly can do it, it feels as though their reign is over. 

17. Harlequins

A fun side to watch, but they simply do not have the pack to compete with the big teams of Europe. 

Sprinkled in are some superb operators, such as Joe Marler, Marcus Smith and Andre Esterhuizen, and their route to the knockouts is not the toughest, so they likely will feature in the Round of 16. 

From there, though, it is tricky to see them getting past a quarterfinal. 

18. Bayonne 

A feel-good surprise story in Round 1 (if you are not a Munster fan), the competition’s newcomers have been brilliantly competitive in the opening two rounds and will be kicking themselves for losing at home to Glasgow. 

Two missed kicks from Wallaby Reece Hodge proved costly, and with a trip to Northampton followed by a home tilt with Exeter, they feel unlikely to progress. 

19. Bristol 

Completing our trio of unpredictable outcomes, Bristol has the firepower to beat anyone at home but has made it clear it will rotate its squad on the road. 

Next up, is the Bulls at home in what will be a challenging fixture against a side now likely hellbent on success this season. 

A trip to Galway in the final round to face head coach Pat Lam’s former team in Connacht is no gimmer either. 

20. Toulon 

The three-time champions have lost two heartbreakers in the opening two rounds and likely will shift their attention to the Top 14. They have a crunch clash with Munster awaiting them at home in Round 3, so it’ll be interesting to see which team they pick. 

21. Stade Francais 

Bitterly struggling in the opening two rounds, despite their domestic form, this squad is not quite at the level of some of the other teams in the competition in terms of star quality, but still, few would have expected a winless start. 

22. Racing 92 

The most disappointing of the two Parisian teams, which, given our Stade assessment, is saying something. 

This squad with Stuart Lancaster in charge should be a whole lot better, having spent the money on superstar names only to fall flat in consecutive weeks. 

Their run as European bridesmaids continues. And, on current evidence, their former fly-half Finn Russell will dice them up in Round 3.

23. Connacht 

Connacht always is up against it, given its budget and squad size, but even still, shipping nearly 100 points in two games is not good enough. 

The loss of Mack Hansen in Round 1 was a cruel blow, and it will be understandable if head coach Pete Wilkins focuses on the team’s URC campaign as we advance. 

24. Cardiff Rugby 

Blown out in Round 1, Cardiff showed serious spirit in Round 2 to nearly knock over Bath. 

In reality, they do not have the quality across the board to compete but have got some great players in Mason Grady, Josh Adam and Ellis Jenkins. 

A winless campaign is very much in the cards for this team.