THE issue of Scottish representation in Europe will be decided by the silent majority who turn up for the Scottish Rugby Union special general meeting on February 9.

The row, which is threatening to split the union, will be settled by a simple vote among those of the 122 clubs in membership of the SRU which turn up at Murrayfield on Friday week.

The senior clubs in favour of club participation are already well enough known. Melrose, Stirling County, Watsonians, Edinburgh Academicals, Boroughmuir, and Currie are expected to vote against the union proposal for districts. Among the other members of the Top 10, Hawick and Gala are opposed, while Heriot's FP and Jed-Forest voted with the six leading club campaigners for a special general meeting of the union so that a proper forum for debate could be provided.

However, the massive propaganda war now being waged by both camps - even if the SRU are not directly involved - is aimed at the huge number of clubs, away from the limelight, which will each have the same voting power come February 9, or more properly, 21 days later if the plan not to stage the vote at the first meeting is carried through.

Some indication of the likely voting patterns that will emerge at that second meeting can be gauged from the series of district meetings held by the union in the past few weeks.

The vote in the South was 22-4 in favour of district representation, only Melrose and Peebles favouring the club route. In the Midlands, the vote was 15-1 in favour of districts, only Dundee HS FP going with clubs. There were, however, a couple of abstentions and the vote was by means of a show of hands.

It is understood that the North clubs were unanimous in their backing of district representation while in Glasgow, although no official vote was taken, only Stirling County, Glasgow Southern, Ayr and, perhaps, West of Scotland, out of the 38 clubs eligible to vote, indicated that their preference would be for clubs.

In Edinburgh, no vote was taken at a poorly attended meeting - due in part to the fact that the Edinburgh District side was on inter-district championship duty the same night - but the senior clubs were, apparently, in favour of club participation.

Informed sources indicate that if the vote were to be taken today then, perhaps, 50 clubs would back the SRU's plan for districts in Europe.

About half that number are in favour of clubs being allowed to show what they can do against top European opposition which leaves around another 50 or so undecided.

These are the unglamorous clubs which form the bedrock of the Scottish rugby community and upon whom, ultimately, the outcome of the issue will rest.

q THE Scotland Under-21 side to play their French counterparts at Myreside next Friday, kick-off 1.0, shows four changes from the side defeated 21-9 by Ireland last weekend.

Alan Bulloch (West of Scotland) comes into the centre in place of Edinburgh Academicals' Michael Duncan, Chris Richards (Jed-Forest) comes in at stand-off and, in the forwards, Robert Hogg (Gala) replaces Stephen Begley at lock and Iain Sinclair comes into the back row for Gregor Heyter. Team:

C M Sangster (Stirling County); S D Reed (Nottingham), C A Murray (Hawick), A J Bulloch (West of Scotland), G M O Smith (Orrell); C J Richards (Jed-Forest), G Beveridge (Boroughmuir); D L Massey (Currie), G C Bulloch, D A Jamieson (both WoS), R B Hogg (Gala), G C Perrett (WoS), T A McVie, G F Dall (both Heriot's FP), captain, I W Sinclair (Watsonians).

Replacements - C K Aitken (Heriot's FP), M P Duncan (Edinburgh Academicals), E J W Weston (Watsonians), C Cottrill (Langholm), S Begley (Glasgow Academials), J R Kelly (Harlequins), G W Scott (Dundee HS FP).

q GALA and Scotland A prop Gary Issac is emigrating to South Africa. Isaac who has captained Gala this season, has turned out for the Netherdale side since 1988. He first played for the South of Scotland in 1990 and was selected for Scotland A against Spain the following year.

He was a member of the Scotland development squad which toured the South Pacific in 1993. To date, he has turned out 175 times for the Maroons, scoring 29 tries in a points haul of 127.