The Champions Cup is the very highest honour that a domestic European rugby team can win. It is a competition pitting some of the best players in the world against each other and has seen some legendary winners.
Who has won the most rugby Champions Cups? Toulouse have won the most Champions Cups with five titles, most recently winning in 2021. Leinster are second with four titles, with Toulon and Saracens tied in third both on three titles.
Toulouse are one of the greatest French Rugby teams in the history of the sport. Having been founded all the way back in 1907, they were one of the few entered into the inaugural Champions Cup in the 1995-96 season. Teams from England and Scotland were not permitted so the teams in the competition were from France, Wales, Ireland, Romania and Italy.
Toulouse cruised through the group stages as well as an easy 30-3 win in the semi-final against Swansea. Having taken a two-try lead in the first 10 minutes of the match, Cardiff’s Adrian Davies got the opposing side back into the game through his kicking. With scores tied after 80 minutes, Cardiff were penalised for hands in the ruck and Christophe Deylaud slotted over the winning kick for their first title.
It was a double for Toulouse as they also won the Top 14 that season. Toulouse continued to get close to the final but started the 21st century with back-to-back group stage exits. This all changed in the 2002-03 season as Toulouse topped their group with only one loss.
After a comfortable win over the Northampton Saints in the quarter-final, it was a much closer affair in the semi-final where Toulouse faced the previous year’s semi-finalist Munster. The French side were able to just about scrape out a 13-12 win in an incredibly close affair in Stade Municipal.
In an all-France final, a 33rd-minute try from Vincent Clerc was the big difference-maker in the game as both sides relied on penalties for the majority of their scoring. Toulouse were able to defeat Perpignan 22-17 and become the second team to win the competition more than once.
Toulouse were back in the final the next season, after comfortable wins in the quarter and semifinals. But they fell to London Wasps thanks mainly to 17 points from Mark Van Gisbergen. But Toulouse would again cruise through the group stages and defeated Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers on the way to the final.
The 2005 Heineken Cup Final was not exactly the most exciting watch for fans as, despite 100 minutes being played, there were no tries scored by either side. In a game decided completely by kicks, it was the half-back pair who scored all the points for Toulouse as they defeated Stade Francais in the final after extra time 18-12.
It was another title for some of Toulouse’s legendary players who had been there for the last three finals including Vincent Clerc, Fabien Pelous and Trevor Brennan. Some of this group were again involved in the 2007-08 final where despite the additions of French legends like Thierry Dusautoir and Maxime Medard, Toulouse fell to Munster 16-13 in the final due to Alan Quinlan and the boot of Ronan O’Gara.
A surprise loss to the Cardiff Blues in the next season meant 2009-10 was a big one for Toulouse. They got revenge on Cardiff in the group stage, topping the group with Cardiff second and it led to a quarter-final against Stade Francais. They easily dispatched their counterparts in a 42-16 demolition, before a 26-16 win against Leinster to set up another all-French final against Biarritz.
Incredibly, it was another final where both sides struggled to score tries, with Toulouse scoring 21 points through the boot by the 65th minute. Despite a 73rd-minute Karmichael Hunt try, Toulouse were able to hold on and secure their fourth title thanks to an incredible cast of players.
Throughout the 2010s, Toulouse fell away from contention of winning the title. After a semi-final loss in 2011, they failed to reach the final four stage until 2019 when they again met Leinster who they had lost to in 2011. The result was the same with Toulouse losing again in the semi-final in 2020 to eventual champions Exeter Chiefs.
But the signs were incredibly promising for Toulouse as they began to assemble a squad that combined young French talent with international superstars. Having won the Top 14 in 2019, they were one of the favourites for the 2021 Champions Cup.
Having won both their pool games, Toulouse faced a difficult test against Munster at Thomond Park. Despite going down early, they stormed back through an incredible performance from Antoine Dupont and almost perfect kicking from Romaine Ntamack.
It was the boot of Ntamack that made all the difference in the quarter-final at Clermont. The French Fly-Half nailed seven penalties in a scrappy game between two of the best French teams. It was another French team in the semi-final as another great performance from Dupont, combined with an early try from Matthis Lebel led them to their first final since 2010.
It was going to be an incredibly difficult final against the power of La Rochelle. After a very tight first 25 minutes, the turning point in the game was the red card for Levani Botia after his brutal hit on Maxime Medard. It meant Toulouse played with a man advantage for the last 53 minutes of the game.
They took advantage of that in a scrappy affair. With both teams tied at 12, it was a try from centre Juan Cruz Mallia that turned out to be the deciding score. With another penalty from Ntamack, a 72nd-minute try from Tawera Kerr-Barlow was not enough for La Rochelle as Toulouse claimed their fifth title.
It took them past Leinster as the most successful team in the European Champions Cup as both teams were tied on four titles before the 2021 success from Toulouse.