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.
Castres Olympique and Newcastle Falcons will be there as domestic cup winners - triumphing in the Challenge Sud Radio and Powergen tournaments respectively - with Edinburgh Rugby, Llanelli Scarlets and The Dragons all in unassailable national qualifying positions in the Celtic League and Bath Rugby and London Wasps assured of top three finishes in the Zurich Premiership.
However, while Wales were permitted to field all five of their regional sides in the current tournament following the introduction of a regional structure last summer, from next season they, like all six of the stakeholder nations, will enter a team in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup competition.
That means that with Wales joining Ireland and Scotland in being able to provide just one side for the Parker Pen Challenge Cup tournament, and Italy failing to earn a meritocracy Heineken Cup place, there is a Heineken Cup vacancy to fill and it will be left to a straight battle between England and France to have a seventh team in next season's Heineken Cup.
And it could go down to the wire - the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on Sunday, 23 May - to determine which of the two nations has advanced the furthest and had the most successful campaign in the ninth season of European club rugby's premier tournament.
Ireland are nominating their teams based on performances in the 2003 / 2004 ERC tournaments, with Munster and Leinster Lions confirmed qualifiers. Therefore that would allow Connacht to qualify as Ireland 3 if they win the Parker Pen Challenge Cup.
The allocation of the initial 23 places for the 10th season of the tournament are:
England and France - six (6) teams each (including one meritocracy place each)
Wales - four (4) teams
Ireland - three (3) teams (including one meritocracy place)
Italy and Scotland - two (2) teams each
THE 2004 / 2005 QUALIFIERS ... SO FAR
(Alphabetical order ONLY and not seedings)
ENGLAND - Bath Rugby, London Wasps, Newcastle Falcons
FRANCE - Castres Olympique
IRELAND - Leinster Lions, Munster
SCOTLAND - Edinburgh RugbyWALES - Llanelli Scarlets, The Dragons