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.
Since the introduction of the bonus point system in season 2003 / 2004 - a bonus point for scoring four or more tries or losing by seven or less points - the magic quarter-final qualifying figure as one of the two best runners-up has been 19. But while no-one has qualified with less than 19 points, in 2003 / 4 the now defunct Celtic Warriors discovered that 20 points in Pool 2 from four wins and four bonus points was still not enough to reach the last eight as Edinburgh Rugby (22 points) and Gloucester (24 points) claimed the seventh and eighth places in the knock-out stages. Last season Leicester Tigers (19) and Northampton Saints (21) squeezed into the quarter-finals behind the six Pool winners.
Wales outside half Stephen Jones, who is heading back to Wales and the Llanelli Scarlets in the summer after two seasons with ASM Clermont Auvergne, may be forced to miss an earlier trip back "home" when the French club travels to meet the Ospreys at The Liberty Stadium on Saturday. The British and Irish Lions star rates his chances of being fit for the Pool 3 match as "touch and go" and no decision will be taken on his recovery from an ankle injury until Wednesday. Jones has signed a three-year deal to return to the Scarlets - for whom he has made 48 of his 50 Heineken Cup appearances, scoring 550 of his 575 tournament points in the process. And the French club has major injury issues at scrum half with Pierre Mignoni and Jerome Moreau both ruled out of contention.
The rounds of domestic competitions on the eve of the return of the Heineken Cup and the Round 5 matches produced just three away wins from the 24 Heineken Cup clubs - Leicester Tigers 28-25 at London Irish; Munster 18-17 in Edinburgh and Benetton Treviso 24-9 at Veneziamestre - with a couple of major upsets. Defending Heineken Cup champions Toulouse went down 19-13 at home to Bayonne; Perpignan lost 33-14 at Agen and Bath Rugby and Leinster - the only clubs left with 100 per cent Heineken Cup records with four from four - both lost on the road. Bath were beaten 25-14 at Leeds Tykes and Leinster went down 20-18 at Llanelli Scarlets.
Triple champions Toulouse will be able to recall club and country captain Fabien Pelous for the Pool 6 visit of London Wasps to Le Stadium. The lock is free to resume playing following the completion of his nine-week ban imposed after the Test against Australia. A decision on the fitness of Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who has a slight strain to his right knee, will be left to the 11th hour but Wales captain Gareth Thomas, who also strained a knee, is expected to play. Toulouse have already sold over 24,000 tickets for the match - which does not include the Wasps allocation - and are confident of a 37,000 capacity crowd.