Our overview of Heineken Champions Cup Pool B teams now turns to Stade Rochelais, the winners of last season’s competition.

Heineken Champions Cup record

Until last term, La Rochelle’s best showing in EPCR’s elite competition came in 2021, when the TOP 14 side reached the final, where they were beaten 22-17 by domestic rivals Stade Toulousain.

Last season

La Rochelle’s historic Heineken Champions Cup campaign started with pool stage wins over Glasgow Warriors and Bath Rugby, with their third-place finish in Pool A setting up a Round of 16 clash with Union Bordeaux-Bègles.

They triumphed 62-36 on aggregate before seeing off Montpellier Hérault Rugby 31-19 in the quarter-finals and Racing 92 20-13 in the semi-finals.

A last-gasp Arthur Retière try saw La Rochelle secure their maiden European trophy, snatching a 24-21 win over Leinster Rugby in Marseille.

Head coach

Ronan O’Gara took the reins at La Rochelle in 2019, after four years as defence coach at fellow TOP 14 side Racing between 2013 and 2017, followed by two years as assistant coach at New Zealand outfit Crusaders.

The 128-time Irish international was one of the leading fly-halves of his generation, featuring twice for the British & Irish Lions and winning the Heineken Cup twice with Munster Rugby – in 2006 and 2008.

He spent the entirety of his career at Munster, amassing 1,365 points in 110 in EPCR’s top competition – more than any other player in history.

Key players

La Rochelle’s squad is headed up by the all-French international front row of Uini Atonio, Pierre Bougarit and Reda Wardi, with Australia’s Will Skelton an imposing figure at lock.

Captain Grégory Alldritt is another French international and a dynamic No.8, while in the backs, scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow boasts 29 New Zealand caps.

Fly-half Antoine Hastoy joined from Section Paloise in the summer and is supported by France centre Jonathan Danty, as well as fellow French internationals Teddy Thomas and Brice Dulin, both of whom can play wing or full-back.

South Africa-born duo Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds are also accomplished back three options.

Pool fixtures

La Rochelle host Northampton Saints in their Pool A opener on December 10 before travelling to Ulster Rugby in Round 2 a week later.

They host the Irish province on January 14 before concluding their pool stage with a trip to Northampton on January 21.