Our preview series of Heineken Champions Cup Pool B sides concludes as we take a look at Stade Toulousain, five-time winners of the competition.
Heineken Champions Cup record
Toulouse lifted the trophy for a record fifth time in 2021, defeating TOP 14 rivals Stade Rochelais 22-17 in the showpiece game.
Their first title came in the inaugural competition in 1995-96, when they beat Cardiff Rugby 21-18 in the final, with their next success coming in 2003, when they overcame USAP 22-17 in the decider.
A 27-20 defeat to Wasps followed in 2004, but they reclaimed 12 months later as they saw off Stade Français Paris 18-12 after extra time.
Another final loss came at the hands of Munster Rugby (16-13) in 2008, before they secured a fourth crown with a 21-19 win over Biarritz Olympique in 2010.
With the pool stage disrupted by coronavirus, Toulouse’s 39-7 victory at Cardiff Rugby in Round 1 proved crucial, helping them progress as seventh-place finishers in Pool B.
They secured a dramatic 50-49 aggregate win over Ulster Rugby in the Round of 16, before an incredible quarter-final contest with Munster was decided by a place-kick competition after a 24-24 draw, with Toulouse triumphing 4-2.
They then met Leinster Rugby in a blockbuster semi-final, but their hopes of a sixth star were dashed as the Irish province delivered a superb performance to win 40-17.
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Ugo Mola took over at Toulouse in 2015, with his previous coaching experience coming with Castres Olympique, CA Brive and SC Albi.
A capable wing or full-back during his playing days, Mola earned 12 France caps and played for Toulouse, US Dax and Castres at club level, scoring 17 tries in 40 EPCR games.
Mola helped Toulouse to their maiden EPCR crown in 1996 and coached them to their record fifth title in 2021. He also led them to TOP 14 glory that year, their second domestic success under his guidance.
Toulouse have an array of French internationals at their disposal in all departments.
Peato Mauvaka, Julien Marchand and Cyril Baille are a seasoned front row, while lock Thibaud Flament and back-row forwards François Cros and Anthony Jelonch are other big French names in the pack.
In the backs, scrum-half Antoine Dupont was the 2021 EPCR European Player of the Year and forms a lethal half-back combination with France teammate Romain Ntamack.
Centre Pierre-Louis Barassi, who joined from Lyon last summer, and back-three options Matthis Lebel, Melvyn Jaminet and Thomas Ramos are further French stars.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Ange Capuozzo is an exciting young prospect, capable of playing on the wing or at full-back.
Toulouse visit Munster in their Pool B opener on December 11 before welcoming Sale Sharks to Stade Ernest Wallon in Round 2 a week later.
They travel to Sale on January 14 before a home clash with Munster on January 22 concludes their pool stage.