Hopeless though their position looks at the foot of the Bank of Scotland Pro Cup table, Glasgow can still dig themselves out of trouble.

So says an authority on the subject, captain Andy Nicol, an acknowledged expert in inspiring underdog sides, who returns to their starting line-up for the first time since they were thrashed at Meadowbank ahead of the autumn internationals.

A string of niggling injuries have hampered his chances of challenging Graeme Beveridge for the No.9 jersey, but this time around it is his fellow internationalist, who has a shoulder problem, making way for the man who led Scotland to their amazing Calcutta Cup triumph in 2000 and Bath to their surprise European Cup win over Brive on French soil in 1998.

Having emerged from the North & Midlands (now Caledonia), then as now viewed as the Cinderella district, Nicol has frequently fought the odds throughout his career. So, with Kiwi Searancke, Glasgow's coach, having repeatedly complained about the paucity of players of influence in his squad, Nicol's presence offers his team and their supporters some reassurance.

''I believe we can turn our season around in the next two games,'' he said of tonight's match and next week's trip to the Borders in the same European qualifying competition.

''If we can can win both ahead of the break for the Six Nations Championship then we are right back in the mix.''

Hefty defeats from both sides this season before they were thrashed by both Sale and Llanelli in two recent European Cup ties mean few would give much for their chances of doing so, particularly tonight against an Edinburgh team bristling with confidence.

While it was too little, too late to help them in the big cross-border competitions, they are rightly proud of the style in which 17 tries have been registered in their last three matches, while Glasgow have scored precisely that number of points in the corresponding fixtures.

''We lack a bit of spark, but all it might need is Glenn [Metcalfe] to take a tough high ball, Steely [Jon Steel] to make a break or Jason [White] to make a big hit,'' said Nicol. ''In rugby, a little thing like that can spark the whole side.''

The extent to which the coaches are searching for solutions was demonstrated by Searancke's explanation for Iain McInroy's introduction.

''We are looking at trying to shore up our defence,'' he said, his team having leaked 79 points and a dozen tries in their past two matches.

''It is a big call for young Iain and I'm not going to judge him on one game. So I'm saying here's an opportunity and if he can do a couple of things it will certainly interest me.''

Another who should get a chance from the bench will be international winger Rory Kerr, though Searancke admitted they have discussed his proposed loan move to Newcastle and said it may be a good opportunity for the player to get some match practice.

Both coach and captain, meanwhile, admitted that every aspect of their play has been reviewed with the backs taking the bulk of the criticism, but the pack's efforts, most notably in the lineout, also coming under close scrutiny. Most of all, however, Nicol is seeking to address the disjointed nature of their performances as he prepares to deal with the onslaught from the Edinburgh back-row of Todd Blackadder, Marty Leslie and Simon Taylor.

''My only aim when I go onto the pitch is to try to influence that area of the game, that's the number nine's job,'' said Nicol.

In all likelihood, however, it will take more than Nicol's presence to reverse recent form in this one with Edinburgh well on course to win the trophy, leaving Glasgow just looking for something to provide hope ahead of what will be a make or break meeting with the Borders.

lWelsh rugby is set to have four franchised regional teams to represent it at professional level. The WRUs general committee last night agreed to recommend the regional teams should be the way forward.

Their blueprint will now go before an egm of the member clubs in a little more than four weeks' time.

bank of scotland pro cup


Meadowbank, tonight (7.30pm)

With Duncan Hodge not yet back to full fitness Brendan Laney returns to stand-off and Chris Paterson (below) to the wing, but it is close to a full strength Edinburgh side with internationalist Craig Smith missing out on the front-row rotation system.

Not for the first time, Glasgow make wholesale changes. Captain Andy Nicol takes the place of the injured Graeme Beveridge, Iain McInroy finally gets his first start of the season, and New Zealander Joe Naufahu returns, while in the pack Andy Kelly, Andy Hall and Jon Petrie are all recalled.

Andy Henderson and Lee Harrison are also injured, but the experienced Dave Hilton moves to the bench to accommodate 21-year-old Kelly, while a trio of internationalists, Tommy Hayes, Alan Bulloch and Roly Reid, all find themselves dropped from the 22.

Edinburgh D Lee; C Paterson, C Joiner, A Dickson, S Webster; B Laney, M Blair; A Jacobsen, D Hall, J Brannigan, N Hines, S Murray, T Blackadder, M Leslie, S Taylor. Replacements: C Di Ciacca, C Smith, G Perrett, A Dall, G Burns, T Philip, C Sharman

Glasgow G Metcalfe; J Steel, I McInroy, J Naufahu, S Moffat; C Howarth, A Nicol; C Blades, G Bulloch, A Kelly, A Hall, J White, A Wilson, D Macfadyen, J Petrie. Replacements: S Lawson, D Hilton, N Ross, G Simpson, C Black, R Kerr, B Irving