7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Stade Francais skipper Sergio Parisse is in action in tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup Final against Harlequins, while Leinster trio Jamie Heaslip, Isa Nacewa and Sean O'Brien go head-to-head with Northampton Saints prop Soane Tonga'uiha in the Heineken Cup Final tomorrow afternoon.
One of these men will follow in the footsteps of Ronan O'Gara, who was named the best player of the first 15 years of European competition at last season's ERC 15 awards ceremony. But while the Munster veteran was rewarded for his consistent efforts since his European debut back in the 1997/98 season, this year's victor will be the first to be judged solely on his impact on a single Heineken Cup or Amlin Challenge Cup campaign.
The star-studded quintet were chosen earlier as this week by a panel of esteemed judges, with each of the 44 clubs involved in European competition then canvassed for their votes.
And with the clubs now having had their say, the selection panel compromising journalists and broadcasters Stephen Jones of the Sunday Times, Stuart Barnes of Sky Sports, Jean-Roger Delsaud from Midi Olympique and Gerry Thornley of the Irish Times, as well as Heineken Cup Ambassador and former tournament winner Raphael Ibanez, reconvened in Cardiff to discuss the feedback.
After hours of deliberation, the panel will sit back and watch both this weekend's fixtures before announcing the final decision on Monday.
Jamie Heaslip - Leinster
A huge presence in the Leinster pack as the Dubliners marched towards a second Heineken Cup Final in three years. A try scorer in the historic Murrayfield win over Leicester two years ago, Heaslip's indomitable ball carrying, tireless defence and calmness at the base of the scrum has been a major driving force in the six Heineken Cup fixtures in which he has featured this term.
Isa Nacewa - Leinster
Played in every one of Leinster's eight games on the road to a Saturday's showdown with Northampton scoring three tries, including a crucial touchdown in the quarter-final against Leicester. Has played 22 games in a row for Leinster, helping them win the title in 2009, reach the semi-finals last year and now a second final.
Sean O'Brien - Leinster
Four tries and three Man of the Match Awards as he helped Leinster reach the Heineken Cup Final. Started every game and played in all three back row positions. Made a major impact with the ball in hand and in defence.
Soane Tongahuia - Northampton Saints
Has been a one-man wrecking machine in the front row for Saints and picked up two Man of Match awards during the Pool stages. Made a real mess of Nicholas Mas and the rest of the much vaunted Perpignan scrum in the semi-final.
Sergio Parisse - Stade Francais Paris
Played a massive role in all the key games for Stade in their march to a third European final, including big performances in the quarter and semi-final victories over Montpellier and ASM Clermont Auvergne.