Glasgow Caledonians

Reds v Stade Francais

Winning by the required 52-point margin against one of the biggest clubs in Europe tonight to qualify for the Heineken European Cup quarter-finals may be beyond them, but Glasgow Caledonian Reds coach Richie Dixon made a declaration of intent with his team selection yesterday.

Dixon was at pains to stress that veteran centre Ian Jardine is in no way a scapegoat following last Friday's defeat in Dublin, which, realistically, cost his side its chance of qualification. However, he is the only player dropped for tonight's meeting with Stade Francais at Hughenden, which kicks-off at 7pm.

By bringing Scotland A winger Alan Bulloch back into midfield with under-21 internationalist Iain McInroy reintroduced on the wing, Dixon has effectively indicated that they are sacrificing some of the security Jardine's presence offers and going for all-out attack.

''We have got to go for it, although it is not as if we are asking anyone to do anything they are unfamiliar with,'' Dixon observed. ''All the players are in positions they have played in before.''

Though he and his players cannot rule out the possibility of qualifying, he is looking at the match as an opportunity to further demonstrate the side's quality.

''We have got to produce a kind of game that earns support,'' he said. ''It is no use us just saying, 'Here we are with a new team for you to watch.' We have to go out there and give the spectators something they will be excited by.''

Having said which all concerned are looking for far more control rather than the cavalier approach which was so severely punished by Leinster.

''If we can have the kind of quality game that we had in Paris against Stade, with the result reversed, then that would be extremely satisfying,'' said Dixon.

''We have shown this season that, with a bit of consistency, we will be very competitive, no matter who we come up against.

''When the European Cup draw was first announced I was more concerned than anything else about the danger of us reverting to type, looking to cut our losses against teams like Leicester and Stade, and limit any damage.

''Instead, we have contributed mightily to every game we have been involved in. Some of the rugby that has been played in this group has been outstanding.''

Indeed, the quality of this particular group, in which no side has yet won away from home after five rounds of matches, cannot be over-stressed.

With that in mind, captain Andy Nicol put this latest challenge into its proper context.

''The very fact that some people are considering us as favourites for this match just shows how far we have come this season,'' he said. ''If we end up level on points with whoever wins this section, it will be a tremendous feat when you consider how new we are.

''We want to go out there and show our fans what we are capable of again, by getting back to the style of play we showed in our first four matches.

''A good, solid victory might not be enough for us to qualify, but if we achieve that, we would at least have the satisfaction of having done a great deal better than most people would have imagined when the draw was made.''

So spoke the pragmatic club captain, yet, like most sportsmen, Nicol is entitled to dream.

''Our prime aim is to capture the scalp of another of the top sides in Europe. Anything else would be a massive bonus,'' he acknowledged. ''However, rugby is a game in which it is possible to pile up a lot of points in next to no time.''

That being the case, he accepted that his side could take some inspiration from the way a match they could easily have won was given the appearance of being one-sided when Leinster went from 23-17 ahead and struggling to hang on, to runaway 44-17 winners, with three converted tries in the last nine minutes.

''It has certainly shown us what can be done if you get on top,'' he said.

That said, he is also anxious that they do not make the mistake of thinking about big scores before trying to ensure that they win the match.

''It is a strange situation, because I have never played in a match where there has been a points target like this,'' said Nicol.

''To be honest, though, we have not even talked about it.

''If we worried about that, we would end up chasing the game from the start and probably end up losing control.

''So this will be treated just like any other game at this level. The target is simply to win as well as we can.''

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - G Metcalfe; S Longstaff, A Bulloch, J Stuart, I McInroy; T Hayes, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, D McFadyen, R Reid. Replacements - G Beveridge, C Chalmers, I Jardine, G Scott, A Watt, D Burns, J Petrie.

Stade Francais - A Gomes; C Dominic, F Comba, C Stoltz, T Lombard; D Dominguez, C Laussucq; S Marconnet, F Landreau, P De Villiers, D Auradou, H Chaffardon, C Moni, M Lievremont, C Juillet. Replacements - D Patterson, R Butland, C Mytton, R Poole-Jones, D George, G De Carli, D McFarland.