ONE of Britain's greatest sporting legends is due to join the crowd tonight at the crucial Celtic League encounter between Glasgow Caledonian Reds and Cardiff at Hughenden.

Former cricketer Ian Botham is taking a brief break from his final John O'Groats to Lands End charity trek in order to cheer on his son Liam, who is playing at full back for the Welsh side.

He will also take the opportunity to pass round the buckets in a bid to raise yet more cash for his leukemia research fund. By this evening, Botham and his entourage will have reached the village of Broughton, near Biggar, and he will be whisked up to Glasgow for the match.

Botham and the rest of the spectators are set to see a display of fast-moving and thrilling rugby, if the recent form of the rivals are any indicator.

Caley go into the game on the back of victories over Llanelli and Caerphilly, while Cardiff aim to pick up two more valuable away points in the wake of last weekend's demolition job on Edinburgh Reivers.

Glasgow backs coach Rob Moffat admitted: ''They were very impressive at Myreside, particularly the back row and their slickness of handling among the threequarters.

''Left wing Simon Hill not only scored three tries, but also opened up the defence regularly with superbly angled runs and we will need to keep close tabs on him.''

Moffat was backed up by recalled captain Andy Nicol, who said: ''In the past when I have faced Cardiff, they have tended to keep it tight - but nowadays they seem intent on playing a fast and fluent 15-man game.

''I hope they maintain the trend because we have the same outlook and it makes for an exciting contest.''

Apart from the return of Nicol in place of Fraser Stott, Caley will give Ian McInroy a run on the left wing instead of Alan Bulloch, while the fit-again Steve Griffiths slots into the second row for Darren Burns.

Moffat praised the part played by Stott in the victory over Caerphilly at Bridgehaugh. ''It is a great reassurance to know that we have someone like him - and also Graeme Beveridge - in reserve, should anything happen to Andy,'' he said.

''It is just a shame that the pair of them can't be involved in more match action at the moment, but I thought Fraser looked pretty sharp last week.''

Cardiff captain Mike Rayer, who claimed two tries himself against the Reivers, said: ''It was a very encouraging performance and we want to do the same against Glasgow.

''We kept the ball in hand and the adventurism paid off. We created plenty of chances and took a few early ones to steady ourselves.''

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - B Irving; J Craig, J Stuart, I Jardine, I McInroy; T Hayes, A Nicol (captain); A Watt, G Scott, G McIlwham, S Campbell, S Griffiths, J White, G Flockhart, D McFadyen. Replacements: A Bulloch, G Beveridge, F Stott, J Petrie, D Burns, W Anderson, D Hall.

Cardiff - L Botham; G Esterhuizen, J Robinson, M Rayer (captain), S Hill; P Burke, K Ellis; S John, D Geraghty, A Yates, S Williams, B Barrett, G Kacala, E Lewis, O Williams. Replacements (from): G Powell, B Stankovich, G Cox, S Moore, J Ringer, R Powell, C Morgan, M Wintle.

Referee - B Smith (Ireland).

qPONTYPRIDD extended their lead at the top of the Celtic League last night with a 21-17 away victory over Swansea. It was Ponty's first win at St Helens for 27 years.

David Kelso