European Cup organisers are set to further complicate Scotland's clubs versus districts debate when their plans for next season are announced.

The Herald understands that representatives from all participating nations, including England, are poised to finalise a schedule which would see European Cup action throughout November, December and January, with the knockout stages taking place in April and May.

That will make it almost impossible for clubs to have access to all their leading players for domestic competitions. The format for Europe's qualifying rounds will see teams playing on alternative Saturdays after the World Cup (October 2 to November 6), from November 13 onwards.

With the Six Nations Champion- ship from February to April, that represents a season-long commitment for Scotland's international squad members.

Although the schedule has the competitive season getting underway on August 14, it also makes it very difficult to see how the English, with most of their clubs now understood to be firmly in favour of ending their self-imposed European exile, can fit in their Allied Dunbar Premiership schedule, or a new Anglo-Welsh League.

However, that does make the set-up advocated in The Herald earlier this month, using next

season as a qualifying period for a longer term British League, an even better option.

That involves splitting the

leading 26 or 28 British sides into two conferences, playing matches only on a home or away basis.

The formation of a new Six Nations Championship also means fewer free dates, but up to 13 weekends could be found to play these matches relatively easily.

It would mean that an exciting new competition would come into being, whilst solving next season's appalling fixture problems caused by the World Cup.

The Welsh could be fully accommodated whether repres-ented by their present clubs or superclubs. Either way there would be plenty of places for the English, including far more of their second division clubs than can currently hope to be promoted.

Top sides would know they could look forward, in future years, to the sort of high quality first division they have been looking for, including Swansea and Cardiff.

Scotland will, though, have to commit to the number of sides they want involved and to date have negotiated for two places. Should superteams or districts, be the long-term future for Scottish professional rugby their involvement must be secured.

q INJURED Scotland player

Gordon Simpson yesterday

admitted it was ''touch and go'' if he will be able to line up against Wales in the Five Nations opener at Murrayfield a week on Saturday.

However, the good news for national chief coach Jim Telfer is that full-back Glenn Metcalfe and prop Matt Proudfoot have cleared their first comeback hurdles with flying colours. Both are expected to be included when Telfer reveals his squad on Wednesday.

Simpson, who wrenched a groin muscle during Glasgow Caley Reds' narrow WRU Challenge Trophy defeat by Llanelli at Stradey Park on Friday said: ''Thankfully, the medics reckon the problem is not related to the pelvic condition that kept me on the sidelines for most of the season.''

Looking ahead to tonight's encounter with Aberavon, Edinburgh Reivers coach Ian Rankin has made some changes, bringing in Stuart Lang, Grant McKelvey, Carl Hogg and Adam Roxburgh. In addition, winger Cammy Murray has recovered from a shoulder knock.

Glasgow Caley coach Keith Robertson has also re-shuffled his line-up for tonight's meeting with Newport at Rodney Parade.

Rob Wainwright takes the

skipper's armband from Gordon Bulloch, while Tom Smith has shaken off a leg strain. Behind the scrum, Luke Smith partners Graeme Beveridge for the first time, while Aaron Collins and James Craig get a recall.