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.
The way the quarter-final draw has worked out, it gives it more spice as Edinburgh realise the magnitude of the task facing them this week and that could be the inspiration they need. Everyone has been delighted with Edinburgh this year, both in and outside Scotland, the Heineken Cup needed a strong Scottish side and for the first time there are five nations - England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France - represented in the last eight.
|Blackadder: Edinburgh player/asst coach|
PREDICTION: Toulouse to set up a Bordeaux semi-final for themselves. It will not be comfortable, Edinburgh will ensure that, but I expect the hosts to win by a healthy margin.
Join commentator Simon Ward, our man in the south of France, for the biggest day in Scottish club rugby history.
HEINEKEN CUP QUARTER-FINAL: MUNSTER v STADE FRANCAIS
Having experienced my first broadcast from Thomond Park when Gloucester visited Limerick in January, I can confirm that this ground creates a simply sensational atmosphere. There will not be as many present as there will be in Toulouse but the 12,000 crammed in will make as much noise.
It's quite a prospect for Stade, but they can draw a lot from their win-or-bust victory over Leicester at Welford Road, which still remains their only away win of the season anywhere (in domestic or Heineken Cup action) this season - quite remarkable for Heineken Cup quarter-finalists.
They are all bar mathematical out of the French Championship (I think even Pythagoras would struggle to make a case for them), lying near the bottom of their pool, so winning the Heineken Cup is their only realistic route back into the tournament next season.
Can they do it? Looking at the team they have a lot of good players, of international class. They did a job on Leicester in the line-out and have got the likes of Tabacco, Auradou, De Villiers and Marconnet in a very strong pack.
Stade will provide a stern test for Munster, but I don't see any negatives in the Irish side. They have top-class half-backs in Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara, are superb up front and Mike Mullins is one of the most under-rated creative midfielders in the game. He purely doesn't get a chance in the Ireland team because they have such riches in that department - Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy and Kevin Maggs.
This is the most fascinating player story of the weekend, is Cullen the man to make Munster into European champions? He has been out of the game with a shoulder injury, doesn't have the match or season fitness he would want, but remains one of the most brilliant talents in the game EVER.
He scored his first try for Munster last Friday against the Warriors and, let's face it, this is what they bought him for - to help them reach the pinnacle of European rugby.
PREDICTION: I go for Munster, who wouldn't after 16 consecutive Heineken Cup victories at Thomond Park?
Stuart Barnes and myself will be in Limerick, join us on Saturday afternoon.
PARKER PEN CHALLENGE CUP SEMI-FINAL, 1ST LEG: BATH v MONTFERRAND
This is a fantastic tie, Bath are running away at the top of the Zurich Premiership and Montferrand are going along nicely in France. It's a match full of star names, and would be worthy of being a Heineken Cup quarter-final.
We have seen the Parker Pen Challenge Cup building for the last few years. It has taken time to establish itself, but it's always harder to build an identity as the so-called secondary competition. Now it has that identity and shows the strength in depth of European rugby as plenty of teams in the Parker Pen would be a credit to the Heineken Cup.
I think the Parker Pen has been undersold as a TV event and I'm delighted that Sky Sports are giving it the full works, with both legs of both semi-finals shown LIVE for the first time, in addition to the final. It's about time we saw all these big matches on our screens.
|Connolly: Montferrand test for Bath coach|
Two-legged rugby matches are still a bit of a novelty and call for a slightly different approach. If a team is losing 20-0 at half-time in the first leg, the coach can always say there is still a match-and-a-half to go, try to nick some points in the second half and make up the deficit in the return leg.
You have to be positive, play each leg on its merits and see how far it gets you.
PREDICTION: Bath to win at The Rec but it's going to be very tight overall. I know that Montferrand coach Alain Hyardet feels it's an advantage to play away first. We'll see if he's right.
Join commentator Bob Symonds for what should be an enthralling game at The Rec.