THE Welsh Rugby Union have used a convoluted process to maximise what glamour is possessed by their Challenge Trophy for their own clubs.

Scotland's superteams, meanwhile, have little prospect of playing against any side other than Welsh clubs, providing yet further evidence of the mess the SRU created by rushing to merge districts into superteams, then desperately trying to find them suitable fixtures.

With 16 participating teams in the Challenge Trophy, which is spread over 23 days from last night until the end of January, four pools of four, followed by knock-out stages, would have been logical.

Instead, the WRU produced two pools of eight teams, the winners of each meeting in a final and the runners-up in a third place play-off.

To get there, Welsh clubs play only ''foreign'' sides - including Edinburgh Reivers and Glasgow Caledonians, who play their opening matches tomorrow - and vice versa.

Three points are awarded for a win and one for a draw in pool matches.

One bonus point goes to sides winning or drawing matches and scoring three tries more than their opponents; two bonus points go to sides winning or drawing and scoring six more tries than their opponents; and one bonus point will go to sides scoring three tries while losing by fewer than 11 points.

Should the leaders still be level, the winners' ties are broken by dividing points scored by points conceded.

All this, apparently, to ensure that even the likes of Caerphilly and Aberavon get four matches against attractive opposition.

Superteam officials are, meanwhile, putting a brave face on the situation, not having known until relatively recently what their schedules would be.

Caledonians look to have the tougher draw, facing Ebbw Vale (tomorrow), who played in this season's European Cup, Scott Quinnell inspired Llanelli, Newport and Bridgend, who recently beat Brive.

The overseas sides in that pool are South African Provinces Northern Bulls and Gauteng Falcons, as well as the Romanian national side.

''We had originally expected to have games against some of the visiting teams but now it's our job to make sure we get a game against one of them in the latter stages,'' said Caledonians administrator, Bill McMurtrie.

Reivers are competing indirectly with Natal, Canada and Georgia, who have replaced Western Samoa, while facing Pontypridd, Caerphilly, Neath and Aberavon.

Buoyed by a Tennent's Velvet Tri-Series win over Caledonians last weekend, they do look to have a genuine chance of challenging for a place in those play-off matches.

''It would have been nice if we could have had pool matches against the likes of Natal and Canada and it does detract a bit from the glamour of the event,'' admitted their chief executive, Nick Oswald.

''However, we know we'll have four very hard games - not least in our opening match against Pontypridd on Sunday.

''We're also looking beyond the Reivers and the Reds and viewing this as excellent preparation for our players who are in the national squads - in fact it is much better preparation than they would have had playing club rugby.''

Reivers are sceptical about reports from Wales that Neil Jenkins, due back in the Pontypridd side after a lengthy lay-off with a shoulder injury, might not get back from holiday in Las Vegas in time for the game against the Scots.

For their part, Bryan Redpath, who is not yet fully fit but could be for Wednesday's meeting with Caerphilly, Brian Renwick and Matt Proudfoot, all travel - despite not being in the 22 for Pontypridd. Reivers squad:

H Gilmour; T Stanger, A Tait captain, C Chalmers, C Murray; D Hodge, I Fairley; R McNulty, S Brotherstone, B Stewart, D Burns, I Fullarton, C Mather, I Sinclair, M Leslie.

Replacements - J Kerr, A Common, G Burns, A Roxburgh, C Hogg, P Wright, G McKelvey.