While both named unchanged sides for tomorrow's Celtic League semi-final, Matt Williams, of Leinster, seemed to do so as much in hope as anticipation yesterday by comparison with the conviction of his Glasgow counterpart.

Indeed, Richie Dixon seemed almost relieved not to have been forced into considering an alternative once James McLaren, Glasgow's international centre, reported fit after retiring early with a shoulder problem in Connacht last Saturday.

''Once we checked on the medical condition of the guys who would most probably have come back into consideration, such as Glenn Metcalfe and Jon Petrie in particular, we felt the team deserved to play again,'' he said of the XV whose display ensured a return trip to Ireland this weekend.

''We looked at the fitness status of these guys but that isn't to say they would have come into the team. It would have given us a selection problem in that respect, but we would probably have still come down on giving the same players a chance.

''Another reason for that would be that, while we are talking about experienced players, it would be a tough call for them to to come in not having played for a considerable time. We would probably have erred on the side of leaving them out this week.''

In saying so, he noted that there were major benefits in keeping the same squad together, right down to all seven replacements. ''Not having played together for four weeks, they now have that game under their belt. When we had our four games in a row with back-to-back wins it was virtu-ally the same team all the time,'' Dixon pointed out, referring back to the sequence of wins that saw Glasgow qualify for the knockout stages of this competition.

''One of the drawbacks is that a player coming in is joining something that is going and flowing. In the modern game, if you have two or three that are just slightly off the pace, the team suffers. Nowadays, if somebody is just not quite there, you can't shore them up like you used to.''

By contrast, Williams named the same XV but listed nine possible replacements, while three key figures are causing some concern. Leo Cullen, their impressive 6ft 8in lock, picked up a shoulder injury last weekend and, so, missed training yesterday, as did midfielders Shane Horgan and Nathan Spooner. Both are suffering from a virus that has been working its way through the camp, with Williams admitting that powerhouse centre Horgan, scorer of a try in Friday's quarter-final win over Newport, is ''very doubtful''.

Having already survived one major scare - Adrian Garvey, the Newport prop, has been cited for allegedly stamping on him - the condition of Spooner, man-of-the-match against the Welsh side despite having to go off before the end, is offering greatest cause for concern.

Lack of cover - Andy Dunne and Emmett Farrell, Leinster's other two stand-offs, are both on the long-term injury list - is such that Brian O'Meara, Spooner's regular half-back partner, could be forced to switch from scrum half and has had a couple of practice matches in the No.10 jersey with that in mind.

Yet another challenge to Spooner's participation has been withdrawn, however, since Newport have not followed up on their threat to cite both the stand- off and replacement flanker Trevor Brennan for high tackles.

Leinster team to meet Glasgow at Lansdowne Road on Friday, ko 7.35pm

G Dempsey; D Hickie, B O'Driscoll, S Horgan, G D'Arcy; N Spooner, B O'Meara;

R Corrigan (captain), S Byrne, P Wallace,

L Cullen, M O'Kelly, E Miller, K Gleeson,

V Costello. Replacements: P Coyle or

E Byrne, G Hickie, B Casey, T Brennan,

B Willis, P McKenna or S Keogh, A Magro

Glasgow R Kerr; J Steel, J McLaren,

A Henderson, M Bartlett; T Hayes, A Nicol (captain); G McIlwham, G Bulloch,

L Harrison, N Ross, J White, G Simpson,

G Flockhart, R Reid. Replacements: G Scott, E Murray, S Griffiths, A Hall, G Beveridge,

B Irving, A Bulloch M Swift

lStirling were forced to keep their Scottish Universities title celebrations on ice until next term after their potential championship-winning match against Strathclyde at the Gannochy was postponed because of flooding. In any case, the Stirling students, although almost certain to lift a second successive title, would still have needed Edinburgh to defeat Glasgow Caledonia before being confirmed as champions. That match, too, fell victim to the weather.

In the one match played yesterday, in round nine of the championship - Heriot-Watt v Glasgow was also cancelled - Dundee defeated St Andrews

18-5 at University Park. Flanker Tommy Kaye and stand-off John Mainwaring scored tries for Dundee, while inside centre John Cohen added a conversion and two penalties.