Since 2010 when Cardiff Blues became the first Heineken Cup qualifier to win the Amlin Challenge Cup, Biarritz Olympique in 2012, and Leinster Rugby, last season, have also triumphed via the same route.
Once the pool stages of both ERC tournaments are completed, all roads will lead to the Cardiff 2014 finals with the Heineken Cup decider going ahead at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 24 May the day after the Amlin Challenge Cup final kicks off Europe's big club rugby weekend at the Cardiff Arms Park on Friday, 23 May.
With heavyweight Anglo-French clashes between Toulouse and Saracens, and Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne, to savour in Round 5, the 35,624-capacity Allianz Riviera in Nice will become the 104th venue to stage a Heineken Cup fixture when reigning champions, Toulon, host Cardiff Blues in a potentially decisive game at the top of Pool 2.
Ulster Rugby, currently the only unbeaten club in the tournament, are probably not too mindful of the haunting statistic that no club which has come through the pool stage with six wins has gone on to win the trophy in the same season. Defeating Montpellier at Ravenhill in Round 5 and setting up a possible pool decider with Leicester Tigers in Round 6 is more on the 1999 champions' agenda at the moment.
With a view to facilitating advance planning by ERC and the qualified clubs, and to help map out the route to both European finals, the semi-final draws for the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup will be made directly after the final Round 6 pool games on Sunday, 19 January.
The Heineken Cup draw will take place at approximately 17.15 (UK time) / 18.15 (French time) and will be followed by the draw for the Amlin Challenge Cup semi- finals. Both draws will be televised live, and will also be available on http://www.ercrugby.com
Heineken Cup Pool Updates
Qualification places are still very much on the line going into Round 5 with Leinster leading the way by four points from Northampton Saints. If Leinster manage to pull a result out of the fire in Castres, and if Northampton happen to be turned over by Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium, then Leinster will be guaranteed a place in the last eight. But they are big ifs …
The much-anticipated clash of Toulon and Cardiff at the Allianz Riviera in Nice - the 104th venue to stage a Heineken Cup game - has all the makings of a pool decider. A win for Toulon would go a long way to sealing a quarter-final spot, but Cardiff are equipped to cause an upset. Exeter and Glasgow could have a best runners-up spot in their sights.
The reverberations of Sunday's clash between Toulouse and Saracens at Stade Ernest Wallon will be felt throughout European rugby. With both clubs deadlocked on 15 points, the winner will be set fair for the knockout stage. Connacht, who host Zebre, are still in the shake-up.
Harlequins' battle for qualification continues when they meet pool leaders Clermont at the Twickenham Stoop. Last season's beaten finalists are four points clear, and a win will send them through to the quarter-finals. However, a Quins victory will leave qualification hanging in the balance for Round 6.
Ulster will look to preserve the only unbeaten record in the tournament with a win over Montpellier at Ravenhill while Leicester face a tricky assignment in Treviso. Wins for the leading two will set up what promises to be a classic European showdown at Welford Road in Round 6.
Munster will be looking good for qualification if they turn Gloucester over at Kingsholm, but Gloucester simply have to win to stay in the race. Not one for the faint-hearted! Edinburgh will also need to beat Perpignan to keep their hopes alive.