Our overview of Heineken Champions Cup Pool A continues with a look at Lyon, last season’s EPCR Challenge Cup winners.

Heineken Champions Cup record

Lyon have competed in EPCR’s elite competition on just three occasions, debuting in the 2018-19 season, when they were defeated in all six of their pool stage games.

Their first win in the Heineken Champions Cup came the following season, when they defeated Benetton Rugby 28-0, but five losses in their other pool matches saw them fail to reach the knockout stage again.

A 55-10 thrashing of Gloucester Rugby kickstarted their 2020-21 campaign and after remaining pool fixtures were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Lyon featured in the knockout stage for the first time but were beaten 47-25 at Exeter Chiefs in the Round of 16.

Last season

Lyon lifted their first ever European title as they beat RC Toulon 30-12 in the EPCR Challenge Cup final in Marseille.

The TOP 14 side marched to the showpiece game after topping Pool B with four straight wins, before beating Worcester Warriors (31-17), Glasgow Warriors (35-27) and Wasps (20-18) in the knockout stage.

Head coach

Xavier Garbajosa is at the helm this season after taking over from Pierre Mignoni, who is now in charge at Toulon.

Garbajosa previously led Stade Rochelais and Montpellier Hérault Rugby, and was a prolific try-scorer in his playing days at Stade Toulousain and Aviron Bayonnais, crossing 17 times in 40 games in EPCR competitions.

The utility back lifted the Heineken Cup with Toulouse in 2003 and has international pedigree too, turning out 32 times for France.

Key players

Prop Demba Bamba is one of several French internationals at the club, with lock Romain Taofifénua and flanker Dylan Cretin also boasting multiple caps.

Joel Kpoku is an English lock who has gained plaudits since moving from Saracens, while South African back-row forward Arno Botha is a fresh addition from Vodacom Bulls, bringing Heineken Champions Cup experience after spending two years at Munster Rugby.

The half-back partnership of Baptiste Couilloud and Léo Berdeu was instrumental in Lyon’s EPCR Challenge Cup triumph last season, with the duo totalling 91 points over the course of the tournament.

Georgia wing Davit Niniashvili is a superb finisher and has stacks of potential, having only turned 20 in the summer.

Pool fixtures

Lyon kick off their Pool A campaign with a trip to Pretoria to face Vodacom Bulls on December 10, before welcoming Saracens in Round 2 a week later.

An away day at Saracens follows on January 14 before Vodacom Bulls visit Matmut Stadium de Gerland in the final round of pool stage games on January 20.