Reivers and Reds both suffering from

injuries and illness ahead of cup-ties

A combination of the effects of over-exertion during the build-up to Christmas and the viral form of the millennium bug that has swept through Scotland over the New Year period, is causing problems for Glasgow Caledonian Reds and Edinburgh Reivers ahead of tomorrow's vital Heineken European Cup ties.

Reivers manager Nick Oswald said yesterday that the shoulder injury that ended Derrick Lee's participation in the early stages of Scotland A's meeting with the Netherlands just before Christmas has ruled the international full-back out of their meeting with Neath.

Fortunately, quality cover is available in the shape of Stuart Lang, who has been something of a Scotland A regular in recent seasons. Lock Nathan Hines, who has been amongst the side's best performers, also looks set to miss the game because of a groin problem, but again his absence should not be a major blow since Iain Fullarton and Andy Lucking, both of whom toured with Scotland last summer, are fit to play.

Unlike their fellow Scots, the Reivers have not suffered too badly with that viral infection that has struck the country so hard.

Only midfielder Kevin Utterson has called in sick so far from their squad and, even though international centre Alan Tait is doubtful, he was, in any case, unlikely to feature in coach Ian Rankin's plans.

''A few of the players are

carrying niggles, but we are con-fident of naming our side tomorrow and that it will be the one which takes the field,'' said Reivers' chief executive Nick Oswald.

By contrast, the home side's management could be forgiven for being slightly sceptical about the line-up Neath have named for the visit to Myreside tomorrow (ko 7pm), since the player who has tormented them twice this season is on the bench.

Stand off Cerith Rees piled up the points when Neath comfortably defeated the Reivers in early October and he transformed his side when he came off the bench against them in the European Cup match seven weeks later.

Reivers dominated the first half at The Gnoll that day to lead 17-3, but Rees' introduction at half-time saw things change dramatically as he ran the show, his side having the better of the second period, despite losing 31-20.

''I think it is fair to say that eyebrows were raised and we were all a bit quizzical when we heard the Neath team,'' said Oswald.

''However, it may well be that it gives an indication of their game-plan and that they will look to play very much a kicking game.''

Reds coach Richie Dixon, meanwhile, is well aware that Leinster's choice of stand off for what is effectively a knock-out match at Donnybrook tomorrow night may also hugely influence their match.

The relatively inexperienced Mark McHugh was Leinster's play-maker when they were outplayed at Hughenden in November, but former West Hartlepool full back Emmet Farrell's switch to No.10 reaped a huge dividend for the Dublin side against Stade Francais last month.

''Against Leicester, we did the normal Irish thing, hustling and bustling, but against Stade Francais we produced some very good rugby,'' Leinster coach Mike Ruddock said of their two home wins that have kept them in contention.

''Farrell is getting the best out of the backs. We scored two

quality tries against Stade Francais, with his timing of the pass putting others into space.''

Dixon, who remembers watching Farrell play in the English

Premiership, acknowledged that he expected the Irish side to be marshalled much better from stand off than they were at Hughenden.

He also expects the highly-

talented Irish international lock, Malcolm O'Kelly, who missed the game in Glasgow, to play.

However, his main concern is the strength of his own side, that virus having affected a number of his players.

''The trouble is that, when we went down to Ebbw Vale, a

number of the players were affected by the travelling, so we can't be completely sure who is fully fit until we get to Dublin,'' said Dixon.

The biggest concern is over the condition of international back-row man Gordon Simpson, who is nursing a foot injury as well as trying to recover from the debilitating effects of the virus, which left him laid up over the New Year.

That said, the squad has been supplemented by two hugely experienced performers, with stand-off Craig Chalmers and centre Ian Jardine both having proved their fitness at Ebbw Vale, which in itself made the journey worthwhile.

Dixon is, then, hopeful that his biggest problem is an embarrassment of riches in that midfield area.

''I am actually slightly disappointed for Alan Bulloch, after the way he has performed at centre recently, that we may have to switch him back to the wing, but that is the sort of difficult decision you prefer to have,'' said Dixon.

He is also yet to say whether Tommy Hayes, whose form picked up substantially in the meetings with Leicester before Christmas, or Chalmers will start the game at stand off.

Chalmers missed training yesterday with a slight hamstring tweak, but Dixon said that has not affected his thinking.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds squad to travel to Dublin: Backs - G Metcalfe, S Longstaff, A Bulloch, I McInroy, J Stuart, I Jardine, T Hayes, C Chalmers, B Irving, A Nicol, F Stott, G Beveridge. Forwards - G McIlwham, G Bulloch, G Scott, D Hilton, A Watt, S Campbell, J White, D Burns, G Simpson, R Reid, D McFadyen, J Petrie.

Neath team to play Edinburgh Reivers - S Stephen; K James, T Tiueti, J Storey, S Williams; M Pearce, R Jones; L Gerrard, Mefin Davies, Dai Jones, A Codling, A Jackson, G Newman, B Sinkinson, R Phillips. Replacements - Mark Davies, C Rees, T Davies, R Francis, S van Rensburg, Duncan Jones, A Millward