18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
ERC AUDIO: CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO DEAN RICHARDS' COMMENTS (5mins 4 secs)
"The quarter-final weekend is going to be a bit easier for me this year than in the past few years because I'll be sitting in a bar in France watching the games on the TV. But as well as relaxing with a cup of coffee and an Armagnac, I'll also be wishing I was still a part of one of the best rounds of the Heineken Cup. If the Pool stages are fraught with tension, then the knock-out phase is even more unforgiving.
"In the past, there has still been a bit of room for one soft quarter-final and an easyish ride for one of the fancied teams. But when you look at the eight qualifiers for this season's quarters, and the make-up of the matches, you'd have to say it is stronger than ever before.
"In my eyes there is no easy match and anyone expecting Edinburgh to roll over and die in Toulouse had better think again. With Todd Blackadder back in the side, and absolutely nothing to fear or lose, I think the Scots can cause the reigning champions more than a few problems.
"In many ways it will be Edinburgh's cup final on Saturday. They are out of contention for the Celtic League, have virtually clinched their Heineken Cup spot for next season and are only 80 minutes away from a Heineken Cup semi-final on home soil at Murrayfield.
"I know from my own experience as both a player and coach that nobody at the eight clubs will be pitching their minds forward to the next round before they have won through. That would be a huge mistake.
"The pressures for clubs at this stage are different to the Pool stages, especially after a 12 week break from European competition. The other difficulty for the coaches has been the interruption of the Six Nations. Having reached the end of the Pool stages in peak form, many of these sides won't have had more than a couple of games together.
"Add to that the fact that it will be a do or die game for some of the sides - notably Edinburgh, Munster and Stade Francais - because there is nothing else left for them to challenge for this season and you can see why the adrenalin count is going to be very high this weekend.
"But for me the key quality that teams need at this stage, and all coaches look for when they are selecting their sides is experience. It is not easy to reach the last eight of the Heineken Cup and then you have to have the confidence to take your chance and turn it into something better. That's where the experience of players like Martin Johnson, Neil Back, Austin Healey and Graham Rowntree always gave us an edge at Leicester.
"Experience counts for a huge amount in the Heineken Cup, which is why you not only look at the home sides to have an edge, but also those teams who have been to this stage before. That lack of experience will count against Edinburgh, although they have already beaten Toulouse once this season.
"They will have to have an exceptionally good day at the office to upset Toulouse, although the home side will have all the pressure on them having lost Ellissalde and Michalak through injuries and the weight of expectation of a 30,000 partisan crowd hanging around their necks. For me, Toulouse are the most rounded side in Europe, with exceptional quality all over the park and in every key area of the game. You've got to take them to win at home, but I don't think it will be easy for them.
"Two years ago Leicester had three great matches against Llanelli in the Heineken Cup, so I know exactly how Biarritz will be feeling as they prepare to go to Stradey Park. We had heard from so many people about the powers of the crowd at Stradey Park, and that it was a difficult place to play, that by the time we got there even the oldest heads in the side were more nervous than usual.
"The first 20 minutes was a torrid affair and we sat back and allowed Llanelli to dictate. If Biarritz want to reach the semi-finals then they will have to meet fire with fire from the first moment and not sit back like Leicester did. That was fatal for us and will be for them.
"But when you consider some of the players that Biarritz have in their side, like Serge Betsen, Nicholas Brusque and Dimitri Yachvili, they have the sort of quality running through the spine of their side that could upset any team. On the night it will be the team that gets the right reactions from their key decision makers that will go through.
If I were a betting man, and I'm not, then I think I would edge towards the Llanelli Scarlets to win with the advantage of the Stradey Park crowd behind them.
"Nick Mallett's Stade Francais side were the team that put Leicester out of the competition with their victory at Welford Road and I feel they have an excellent chance of upsetting Munster - even though the game is being played at fortress Thomond Park. Playing against Munster in Limerick is one of the tallest orders in European rugby, but I just think Stade have the side to challenge them.
"With Marconnet and De Villiers in their front row, and Auradou and James behind them, they have one of the strongest front fives in the Heineken Cup. Their back row is big and mobile and then they have the controlling influence of Dominguez at outside half. They will miss Pichot's enthusiasm at scrum half, but Liebenberg was a key figure against Leicester and he will be the player Stade will look to to make in roads into the Munster defence.
"If Stade have the best front row around, then Munster must surely have the best second row combination in Europe in O'Connell and O'Callaghan. With no Johnson or Shaw in the England line-up, they were the pick of the locks in the Six Nations and will be key to the Munster effort.
"This is going to be one of the most fascinating battles of the weekend. Can Stade do it? Maybe . . . but then maybe not! Only a fool would bet against Munster when they play at Thomond Park, and I'm no fool, yet you can't help feeling that one day some team will win there.
"As far as I'm concerned then will be only one winner of the all-English clash on Sunday - London Wasps. Once again, Wasps have huge experience through the spine of their side with the likes of Dowd, Shaw, Dallaglio, Howley and King and are a big unit up front.
"I just don't think Gloucester are functioning as well as a team as Wasps at present and, no matter how much they will be looking to make up for their Twickenham play-off final defeat last season, I don't think they have got the armoury to break down the Wasps defence. Another fascinating battle in prospect, but one which I believe Wasps' experience and team spirit to win in the end. Wasps are simply getting better and better and are one of my tips for the final."
So, there you have it. Deano is edging towards a full house of home wins, although he thinks that there could be a few upsets. The Heineken Cup quarter-finals are a bit like that - a punter's nightmare.
Don't forget to log on to ercrugby.com on Monday to get Deano's verdict on the quarter-finals.