Caerphilly v Glasgow Caledonian Reds

It was the long haul by bus yesterday for Glasgow Caledonians, who today face Caerphilly in the Scottish/Welsh League at Victoria Park in what should produce a victory for the Reds.

Caerphilly, along with Dunvant, have struggled this season to keep up with the pace set by some of their Welsh peers in the Celtic League, but, as Caley coach Richie Dixon reminded, they can be expected to be tough nuts on home ground.

''They'll be hard to play against on their home patch. It's up to us to impose ourselves on the game. I just hope that the weather remains dry and sunny so that we can play the type of game that suits us,'' said Dixon.

The Caley coach has tipped Andy Nicol to be made the next Scotland captain. The 29-year-old scrum half was vital in Scotland's 19-13 victory over England on Sunday after taking over from Kiwi centre John Leslie for the game. Now, Dixon insists that the Reds captain could be the man to lead Scotland in New Zealand in the summer.

''It is not for me to decide, but I certainly find him to be a natural leader and I had no hesitation in making him team and squad captain for Glasgow Cals,'' said Dixon.

''I have known Andy for a long time and he has been round the houses a few times. He is a natural guy and, sometimes, the captaincy doesn't sit too comfortably with someone, but he seems to be able to cope with the ins and outs of the role.''

Nicol, despite the enormity of the occasion last Sunday, is ready for a lower-level fray. ''When you have days like last Sunday, you just want to keep on playing rugby and playing for your club is what it's all about,'' said the scrum half, who realises that his side have a lot of ground to make up in the remaining games of the Celtic league.

''Considering the second half of the season that we've had, we really need to put in a good level of performance this weekend. We played well against Leicester in the European Cup, but since then we've really underachieved.

''The last time we went down to Wales, at one stage we were 50-0 down against Llanelli, so we've got to exorcise that demon.

''But there's every incentive for us to do well. There are a lot of players on the periphery of the New Zealand tour who, in the next few weeks, if they can put in good performances, could very well be among the 35. There's a lot to play for,'' suggested Nicol.

The Reds, with five Scotland caps in their pack, should have little difficulty in supplying quality ball for a back line that has the potential to run in a bundle of tries.

Assuming good conditions for handling, the Reds will want to move the ball wide to wingers Alan Bulloch and James Craig and to involve Scotland Under-21 cap Barry Irvine as much as possible.

The match will be another step in the on-field rehabilitation programme for Rowen Shepherd, the former Scotland full back. Shepherd, who toured with Scotland in South Africa last summer, has played very little rugby this season after injuring his wrist playing against Gauteng Lions at Ellis Park.

A late call-up to the Scotland A team for the game against England last Saturday allowed Shepherd to make his re-entry to representative rugby and the chance to bid for a tour party place.

Shepherd's appeal would be his ability to switch from centre to full back, but for the former Melrose player it will be a matter of what he achieves over the next few weeks.

Dixon has named Ian McInroy on the bench and hopefully the Scotland Under-21 cap will be given playing time to confirm his current form both in XVs and in sevens. McInroy would have an outside chance of a tour place if Scotland coach Ian McGeechan deliberately selects a clutch of young players.

The other avenue for McInroy to hone his skills might be via the Scotland sevens team, who will be in Paris at the end of May and in Madrid in early July for their European zone World Cup qualifying tournament.

Elsewhere on the bench, Dixon has called up Dundee HSFP flanker Alan Brown and the former Scottish Schools hooker Doug Hall of Hillhead/Jordanhill, both of whom are apprentices in the Reds squad.

Glasgow Caledonians - B Irvine; A Bulloch, I Jardine, R Shepherd, J Craig; T Hayes, A Nicol (captain); D Hilton, G Scott, G McIlwham, S Campbell, D Burns, J White, J Petrie, G Simpson. Replacements I McInroy, J Stuart, G Beveridge, A Brown, G Flockhart, D Herrington, D Hall.