24 top flight club teams from six countries compete in the Heineken Cup. These will include a minimum of:
||6 teams (selected by performance in Top 14 Championship)
||6 teams (selected by performance in Aviva Premiership and LV=Cup)
||3 teams (selected by performance in RaboDirect Pro12)
||3 teams (selected by performance in RaboDirectPro12)
||2 teams (nominated by the Scottish Rugby Union)
||2 teams (nominated by the Italian Rugby Federation)
For the 2012/13 season the 23rd Heineken Cup team will comes from France because Biarritz Olympique won the 2011/12 Amlin Challenge Cup, while the the 24th Heineken Cup team club comes from Ireland becauses Leinster won the Heineken Cup.
Another significant boost for the tournament sees the winner of the Amlin Challenge Cup, who will continue to qualify for the following season's Heineken Cup, also earn an additional Heineken Cup spot for the country of the winner.
From the 2010/11 season both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup winners will qualify automatically for the following season's Heineken Cup and will each earn an extra Heineken Cup spot for their countries - over and above their guaranteed allocations.
However, England and France, who have six automatic places, will only be allowed a maximum of seven teams, so if either country wins both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup the second additional spot will pass on to the club with the highest ERC European Ranking who has not already qualified from any of the other five nations.
The changes mean that the Italian / Celtic League 24th Place Play-Off is no longer required and the extra place earned by England this year, which was available to the most successful nation from England, France or Italy, is also no longer applicable.
Teams will continue to qualify through their domestic tournaments with each nation having the following number of automatic places:
|England and France
|Wales and Ireland
|Scotland and Italy
The 23rd and 24th Heineken Cup places will go to the nation(s) of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup winners, with England and France capped on a maximum of seven teams each.