Premiership Rugby

2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup Rankings: Who Leads The Pack?

2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup Rankings: Who Leads The Pack?

Discover the top teams in the 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup with our comprehensive power rankings. See where your favorite rugby club stands!

Jan 22, 2024 by Philip Bendon
2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup Rankings: Who Leads The Pack?

With the pool stages of the 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup done and dusted, club rugby’s blue-chip competition did not disappoint. 

Whether it was newcomers shaking up the old guard, champions returning to form or new stars announcing themselves to the world, the pool stages had it all. 

Now taking a break for the international window, the tournament will return for the do-or-die knockout stages on the first weekend of April. 

Ahead of its return, here is a look at where the teams sit heading into the Round 16: 

1. Toulouse

The five-time champions hit cruise control for the majority of the pool stage and secured top spot heading into the Round of 16 with four bonus points victories. 

The biggest obstacle standing in their way is how they will deal with the loss of the game’s best player, Antoine Dupont, who has left the squad to join the French sevens program. 

2. Leinster 

Looking to join Toulouse in adding a fifth star to their jerseys, the Dubliners started the competition with a bang by seeing off the team that has defeated them in the past two finals and one semifinal before that in La Rochelle. 

This result was followed by three bonus-point wins to lock up second place heading into the last 16. 

Clearly reveling in new coach Jacques Nienaber’s defensive system, Leinster appears to have a steel about it that was perhaps missing in previous seasons.   

3. Bordeaux-Begles 

The surprise package of the pool stages, the team that possesses just about the full French backline, came up just short of an unbeaten pool stage, as a heavily rotated team came up six points short away to the Vodacom Bulls. 

Capable of shredding defenses from long range, Bordeaux is the very definition of total rugby and has a real chance of securing a first Champions Cup title this season. 

4. La Rochelle 

"We’re bacckkkkkk" is statement no other team wanted to hear from the two-time defending champions, who blitzed the Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks in Round 3 and Round 4, respectively, to secure a place in the last 16. 

Starting the season on a slow note with back-to-back losses, Ronan O’Gara’s side showed its quality to bounce back. Now simmering along nicely, they are the team nobody wants to face in the knockouts. 

5. Northampton Saints 

Another surprise package, the Gallagher Premiership leaders showed their championship mettle by defeating Munster at Thomond Park, despite picking up a red card. 

This win cemented the idea that the Saints are England’s best chance of winning this year’s title come the final in London. 

Leading the charge is veteran Courtney Lawes, who continues to drink from the fountain of youth, while emerging fly-half talent Finn Smith looks to have world-class potential. 

Underestimate the Saints at your own peril. 

6. Bath Rugby 

Another impressive Premiership outfit, Bath, is a different beast in 2024, with Finn Russell pulling the string at fly-half. 

While there is no doubt that Russell’s addition is the key factor, the emergence of Ollie Lawrence, Alfie Barbeary, Joe Cokanasiga, Will Muir and several other young talents means Bath has won one of the most talented starting XVs in the competition. 

Head coach Johan van Graan knows what it takes to go deep in the playoffs, having done so with Munster. 

7. DHL Stormers 

An interesting prospect, having secured a Cape Town rematch with La Rochelle, which they defeated in the dying seconds of their pool clash in Round 2. 

The past URC champions have several frontline Springbok World Cup winners on their squad but perhaps lack enough quality in the forwards to truly go all the way. 

Regardless, their clash with La Rochelle certainly is the pick of the last 16. 

8. Vodacom Bulls 

Like their countrymen above them, the Bulls have set up a pool rematch against French opposition, as they welcome Lyon to Loftus Versfeld. 

Just scrapping by Bordeaux in Round 4 showed the Bulls' key weakness, which is their defense, but also highlighted just how deadly they are in attack. 

Coming up just short with a heavily rotated squad against Lyon in their first meeting, Jake White’s side will be uber-confident about getting one back, and from there, the world is their oyster. 

9. Exeter Chiefs 

Tailing off toward the end of the pool stage, the Chiefs are perhaps fortunate to be a second seed, having seen their clash with the Glasgow Warriors end in unusual circumstances. 

A drubbing away to last place Bayonne was perhaps not to be too unexpected, given they were locked into second place following Munster’s loss to Northampton the day before. 

There is no doubt the Chiefs are rebuilding in impressive fashion, but all three of their victories came in unusually late circumstances, which is a testament to their never-day say-die attitude, but also a reminder that should the bouncing stop going their way, so too will the results.   

10. Harlequins 

Very impressive for three of their four victories, Harlequins has been one of the most exciting attacking teams in the competition this season. 

However, their complete no-show at home against Toulouse was a reminder that they still are a step below the top teams in the competition. 

Defeating three out-of-sorts opponents in Ulster, Racing and Cardiff has somewhat inflated expectations of this squad, which looks light in the forward pack. 

11. Munster Rugby 

Currently the most injury-plagued side in the competition, the URC champions have been taking on the water all season. 

An impressive win over Toulon in Round 3 is sandwiched between two losses in fixtures they should have closed out against Exeter and Northampton, while their Round 1 draw with Bayonne is indefensible. 

Munster has a pedigree of going on the road in the knockout stages and will look to get one back on the impressive Saints in the last 16. 

Should they get some players' backs fit and healthy, then the ability to pull off the upset is there. 

12. Glasgow Warriors 

The Scottish side rebounded from its head-scratching loss in Exeter with a powerful showing against Toulon to lock down a place in the last 16. 

Outside of their opening-round loss to the Saints, the Warriors have looked sharp and will fancy their chances against Harlequins in the last 16, as that's a team they’ll feel they can physically can top.

13. Lyon

Seemingly more focused on a poor run of form in the Top 14, it will be interesting to see what team Lyon sends to Pretoria for the last 16. 

Realistically, fighting on two fronts looks to have been a step too far for Lyon this season, but on any given day, they do have the quality to pull off an upset. 

14. Leicester Tigers

A tough team to gauge, the Tigers, like Harlequins, were shown to be quite some way off the pace when they faced one of the tournament favorites, Leinster and La Rochelle. 

Opening with a narrow win against a second-string Stormers side before securing a tight victory over Stade Francais, the Tigers secured their place in the last 16.

Traveling to Dublin for a rematch with Leinster is a true acid test for Dan Mckellar’s side, but one they probably would’ve preferred to avoid. 

15. Saracens 

The three-time champions are another side firmly in transition, but their utter capitulation away to Bordeaux should send alarm bells ringing. 

Physically dominated from the off, the Premiership champions looked unlike any iteration of the famous black shirts that we have ever seen. In their defence, they did get it together for Round 4 and comfortably put Lyon away. 

The one key area that looks set to be their downfall is defense, as they conceded a whopping 142 points in four matches for an average of 35 per match. This stat stands in stark contrast to the previously feared rush defense that secured their three titles. 

16. Racing 92 

Possibly the most disappointing side in the competition, the star-studded outfit has looked rudderless this season. Even with Siya Kolisi offering key leadership, Stuart Lancaster’s side looks to be lacking a real playmaking general. 

This, therefore, makes their reported pursuit of Owen Farrell all the more understandable ahead of next season. 

The one positive factor is they are facing familiar opposition in the last 16 when they take on Toulouse. 

17. Sale Sharks 

Last year’s losing Premiership finalists started their campaign brightly with a dominant win over Stade Francais, before losing their next three encounters to see them drop out of the running and back into the EPCR Challenge Cup. 

Ultimately, the rotation of their squad is what cost the Sharks a knockout spot, as they had opportunities to beat both Leinster and the Stormers on the road but opted instead to focus on home fixtures. 

18. Ulster Rugby 

Brutally disappointing, Ulster was firmly second-best in three of its four fixtures, with the lone win coming against Racing 92. 

No side in the competition can fluctuate in performance levels quite like the men from Belfast, who, when on form, are good enough to beat any team in the competition. 

19. Bayonne 

Tournament newcomers Bayonne acquitted itself well outside of a drubbing by Northampton. 

Ending with a dominant win over Exeter was a nice reward for pushing Munster and Glasgow to their limits. 

Their focus now will be on pushing up higher in the Top 14 to ensure qualification for next season’s competition. 

20. Toulon 

The three-time champions failed to fire a shot this season and firmly rooted themselves to the bottom of Pool 3.

Despite having several world-class players, Toulon lacked cohesion and ultimately cracked when put under pressure. 

21. Stade Francais 

Another side that promised so much but ultimately underdelivered. 

What was glaring about the Parisian side’s campaign was a lack of competitiveness, given it is one of the top sides in their year’s Top 14. 

22. Connacht 

Always up against it from a resource standpoint, Connacht will be disappointed that its hand was forced to rotate the squad heading into Round 3 against Lyon. 

Ultimately, this loss in a very winnable game ended their campaign, despite thumping Bristol in Round 4. 

23. Bristol Bears 

Another side with plenty of firepower but an inability to string consistent performances together. Pat Lam’s side is full of great entertainers, but realistically, they never were going to be contenders. 

24. Cardiff Rugby 

The third of the winless teams, Cardiff, had its moments, but the challenges facing rugby in Wales were laid bare for all to see as they were shredded in every round except for their tight battle with Bath, yet even then, Cardiff conceded 39 points.