Pontypridd v Glasgow Caledonians

ROOKIE centre Iain McInroy is today aiming to cap the most memorable fortnight of his sprouting career by helping Glasgow Caley Reds to victory over Celtic League frontrunners Pontypridd.

Though still just 20, the former Garnock and West of Scotland man would appear to have quickly come of age in rugby terms after being pulled in as a late replacement for Ian Jardine shortly before the European Cup encounter with Stade Francais.

Despite the defeat, McInroy acquitted himself well in Paris against the international centre pairing of Franck Comba and Thomas Lombard, and he followed up with an even better display in Caley's win over Leinster last weekend, contributing to two of their touchdowns.

As he prepared for the toughest of challenges at Sardis Road, he paid due tribute to the influence of Jardine - and admitted to mixed feelings over the circumstances surrounding his elevation.

''It has been a great couple of weeks for me, and I am determined to keep up the momentum against Pontypridd,'' said McInroy. ''It has been terrific to be given the chance of a run in the side in such high-profile matches, but, at the same time, it is unfortunate that it has all happened because of Jardy's injury.

''He has been a real mentor to me in the squad, and I have probably learned more from him in training over the past few months than anyone else and I owe him a lot.''

McInroy also praised the others in the Reds backline for enabling him to feel ''at home'' among them. He said: ''All the guys around me have pulled together and have made my job as easy as possible.

''The team spirit is tremendous just now, and we are confident we can carry on at Sardis Road where we left off at Hughenden and earn a positive result which would act as a launch-pad for the back-to-back European Cup ties against Leicester.''

McInroy is clearly revelling in the world of pro rugby, having thrown in his lot with Caley at the end of last season after completing his engineering degree.

He said: ''It seems as if my feet haven't touched the ground since I joined in June and the past fortnight has been the icing on the cake.''

Jardine, meanwhile, is expected to see a specialist on Monday to get an update on his calf problem. Reds coach Richie Dixon explained: ''It is just a niggle, but it seems to be extremely slow in clearing up.

''Ian is a wise old head and he is doing all the sensible things in an effort to get back in action, but he is also experienced enough to know not to rush it.''

McInroy's air of controlled confidence was echoed by another of the Caley youth brigade, Jason White. Now starring in the second row alongside Stewart Campbell, he said: ''We are now gelling as a team with the forwards in particular getting firmly established as a potent unit.''

He added: ''We are all looking forward to facing Ponty. There is sure to be a big crowd and a superb atmosphere, and, like ourselves, they will have their tails up after a good European Cup victory last week.''

A toe injury forced White to miss the season's opener at Bridgehaugh, which the Welshmen won narrowly, thanks mainly to a spate of long-range penalties from stand-off Lee Jarvis.

He said: ''One of the most pleasing features of our victory over Leinster was the fact that we gave away so few penalties in the danger zone, and we have to follow the same doctrine at Sardis or we will be punished by Jarvis.''

Pontypridd spokesman Cenydd Thomas declared: ''The people down here are excited about this match. We were maybe a shade lucky to win at Stirling and we expect an even stronger challenge from Glasgow now that their World Cup men are back.''

Pontypridd - B Davey; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Lewis, G O Lewis; L Jarvis, P John (captain); N Kau, A Lamerton, S Cronk, W James, I Gough, M Lloyd, G P Lewis, R Field. Replacements: C Loader, F Vunipola, R Sidoli, J Macachec, M Taylor, C Sweeney, J Calderley.

Glasgow Caledonians - G Metcalfe; A Bulloch, I McInroy, J Stuart, S Longstaff; T Hayes, A Nicol (captain); A Watt, G Bulloch, D Hilton, S Campbell, J White, J Petrie, G Simpson, R Reid. Replacements: B Irving, J Craig, F Stott, D McFadyen, S Griffiths, G McIlwham, G Scott.

Referee - D Davies (WRU).