With the selection of Scotland's party to tour New Zealand imminent, Glasgow Caledonian Reds' meeting with Welsh Cup holders Swansea at Hughenden tonight (kick-off 7.30pm) could hardly have been better timed.

''You couldn't have asked for two better games at this particular time,'' said Reds coach Richie Dixon, referring also to next week's Good Friday meeting with Cardiff at the Arms Park.

For one player in particular that this match is against Swansea conjures up memories of the last time he was being pushed for Scotland honours.

Dixon was national coach then and took a gamble on the 20-year-old winger, which, admittedly, did not pay off at the time.

Thereafter, James Craig suffered a crisis of confidence, but, more significantly, a series of worrying injuries, which cast doubt over whether he would regain the electrifying form that saw him emerge as the most devastating finisher seen in Scottish rugby for many years.

Dixon and his coaching staff have subsequently been carefully nurturing a player who, having just turned 23, remains very much part of the next generation of talent who could take Scotland to the next World Cup.

The Reds coach is cautious about pushing his case too hard, then. ''He's got a lot of work to do yet, having had another chequered season through injury,'' he said of Craig's prospects of being in Scotland's 35-man tour party.

''He had just come back into the team and was beginning to play well when he went away to play for Scotland in the Hong Kong Sevens.

''However, the more often we can play James in these remaining games, the more opportunities he has to push himself back into the frame.

''If he can play well against Swansea and Cardiff then maybe it will have an impact on the tour selection, but, then, that applies to all our players if they have any ambition at all . . . and I know they all do.''

Craig is also playing things down, perhaps understandably anxious to avoid any repeat of the way media hype helped propel him into what was, with the benefit of hindsight, a premature introduction to Test rugby against a powerful Australian side.

''I'm not thinking too much about the tour,'' he said. ''Last week's game against Caerphilly was only my third game back, but the confidence is coming back.

''I didn't see much of the ball, but felt I had a good game in defence, which I'm always conscious of having to work on.''

Having enjoyed running around in the Hong Kong sunshine, he is, though, very much aware that the real hard work is just beginning.

Then again, there could hardly be a more brutal reminder of that in the return to Glasgow of Swansea.

When the then Glasgow district side visited the Welsh giants in the 1997 European Cup, there were complaints afterwards about the tackling of Scott Gibbs, in particular one challenge on Craig, which was no more or less than a forearm smash.

''I haven't forgotten about the way he tackled in the first game, but I don't think he does that any more . . . '' laughed Craig.

What he also remembers, though, is having the last laugh with a fine try in the return match that put Glasgow on their way to the knockout stages - they remain the only Scottish side to have achieved that - at Swansea's expense.

With Gibbs - partnered in Swansea's midfield by Mark Taylor in a back division containing five Welsh internationalists - back in Glasgow tonight, that memory can only help inspire Craig.

So, too, should the way his case for a recall was promoted by the man who helped him score a hat trick of tries against Wales in an A international early in 1997, British Lion Alan Tait.

It was after Scotland's defeat by Ireland that Tait called for the introduction of youth and pace, mentioning Craig and Chris Paterson in particular.

Paterson's involvement since then having proven a huge success, Craig is hoping that Tait's other recommendation is accepted.

''It is good to see the way that the selectors are looking at the younger players coming through,'' he said. ''Alan was right when he spoke about the importance of that and it was very encouraging that he mentioned my name.

''This is the right time to be looking to the future with the next World Cup three and a half years away and I hope I can get involved.''

He has still to prove himself again, but as part of what is also a highly talented Reds back-line, Scotland full back Glenn Metcalfe's fitness having been confirmed yesterday, he knows that at least the opportunity is there.

''I feel I am getting back up to pace, but there is still more in me,'' he said. ''At this particular stage, we couldn't have two harder games, though, and that is great for us.

''These are the ones that really matter, against opposition of this quality, and we know we can win them. Swansea are a good side, but we felt we had the measure of them down there earlier this season and should have won.

''So it would be nice to put on a bit of a show for our home support in our last game in Glasgow this season.'' Teams :

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - G Metcalfe; J Craig, A Bulloch, I Jardine, I McInroy; T Hayes, A Nicol capt; D Hilton, G Scott, G McIlwham, D Burns, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, J Petrie.

Swansea - K Morgan; R Rees, M Taylor, S Gibbs captain, S Payne; A Thomas, Rhodri Jones; D Morris, G Jenkin, B Evans, T Maullin, A Moore, P Moriarty, D Thomas, L Jones