Llanelli v Glasgow Caledonian Reds

Pontypridd v Edinburgh Reivers

SCOTLAND'S superteams set out today in their latest quest to bury the hoodoo on Welsh soil.

Neither Glasow Caley Reds nor Edinburgh Reivers have ever been able to beat the Welsh quality teams on their own grounds.

However, Glasgow Caley coach Richie Dixon will put his side on ''backlash alert'' when they take on Celtic League title favourites Llanelli at Stradey Park.

One of the Reds' rare successes against top-level opposition this season was against the Scarlets at Hughenden - courtesy of skipper Andy Nicol's close-range try in the dying seconds.

Dixon stressed: ''Llanelli will still be smarting from that experience. There is no doubt that the defeat surprised them and hurt them, and that's what will make them particularly dangerous this time round.''

Caley are boosted by the return to the back-row of Gordon Simpson, who was ruled out of Scotland activities last weekend. National coach Ian McGeechan confirmed that Simpson would not have been in the starting line-up anyway against France, so he will be anxious to prove a big point to the watching selectors at Stradey.

Missing from action is skipper and scrum half Nicol, whose wife was due to give birth to their first child last night. His absence offers Graeme Beveridge the chance of a full 80-minute workout, while Glenn Metcalfe takes over the captaincy.

There is also a significant addition to the bench list, which includes Scotland utility back Rowen Shepherd. He has been sidelined for almost a year with an arm injury and he will be keen to re-establish himself as quickly as possible as a contender for international honours.

Dixon stressed that events at Hughenden should have no significant bearing on what may transpire today. ''That all happened during the World Cup and now each team is completely different in terms of personnel.

''What we are most looking forward to is playing our part in a fast, fluent and entertaining game of rugby. Stradey should suit us because it has a flat and hard surface.

''The other point to make is that, unlike us, Llanelli have earned a place in the quarter-finals of the European Cup. They will possibly be treating the match as a rehearsal for that, while we will be looking on it as the start of preparations for next season's campaign.

''Above all, we are determined to crack this Welsh hoodoo - our apparent inability to perform against the leading teams down there. It is a mental thing rather than having anything to do with talent. I have been working very hard with the players as regards attitude and mental toughness.

''To win down there would not only be a great boost to ourselves, it might also have some positive knock-on effect on Scotland's preparations for next week's Six Nations match in Cardiff.''

Scrum-half Beveridge, meanwhile, has vowed to make the most of his opportunity to make a big-match start for Caley. Admitting he had mixed emotions from his recent international squad experience, he said: ''While it was disappointing not to be involved in the game against France, my week with the group was invaluable.

''Being at Murrayfield on Saturday itself was also a tremendous thrill. On one hand I didn't want Andy Nicol to get injured, but on the other I was itching to get on, even for just a few minutes.

''I think I learned a lot about how difficult it is to perform at that level - and also to win at that level. In short, the experience whetted my appetite and I left the guys on Sunday morning thin king 'I'll have some more of that.' ''

Llanelli manager Anthony Buchanan said his men would not be underestimating the threat of the Reds, especially in light of what happened at Hughenden.

He said: ''There was an initial feeling that we had been a bit complacent in that game.

''But, in reflection, our downfall was a debatable refereeing decision right at the end. It meant that Glasgow were given the put in at a scrum on our line, and Nicol is deadly from that range.

''I can't pretend that I am disappointed that he won't be playing against us this time because we rate him highly. But we also know that, as a unit, Glasgow will provide us with a big challenge.''

Meanwhile, Reivers' hopes of claiming a rare Celtic League success on Welsh soil have been hit by an illness set-back involving full-back Chris Paterson.

Paterson, who made a hugely favourable impression on his Six Nations Championship debut against France last weekend, has been struck down by flu symptoms and will miss today's encounter with Pontypridd at Sardis Road.

Reivers' manager Nick Oswald was quick to stress, however, that there should be no problems surrounding the player's availability for Scotland's trip to the same part of the world next weekend.

Stuart Lang has been drafted in at full back, with Mark Lee, of Jed-Forest, and Currie's Peter Simpson added to the replacement list.

Meanwhile, head coach Bob Easson revealed he was ''cautiously confident'' that, despite Paterson's absence, his team could earn their first victory over Ponty - either as Edinburgh or the Reivers.

''Ponty on their own patch are about as tough as they come, but we are certainly up for the challenge,'' he said. ''We have turned a bit of a corner in the way we are playing. There has definitely been a bit more zip of late.

''We were able to take a lot out of the Glasgow Caley game at Riverside Park a couple of weeks ago, even though we lost. We conceded 27 points worth of penalties, which in anybody's book is just crazy.

''That is an issue I discussed objectively with the referee, Rob Dickson, and I think in reflection there were faults on both sides of the fence there.''

Easson went on: ''We have a team that can do a good job down there. I think that Ponty have been vulnerable since they lost Neil Jenkins to Cardiff. I felt we should have beaten them at Myreside earlier in the season - we certainly carved out enough chances.''

Easson hinted that too much had been expected from Scotland's two superteams in their first year of Celtic League competition. He argued: ''Winning in Wales has been a high hurdle - but it will be cleared.

''This is the third year of proper professional rugby in Scotland, but only the first year with a full fixture list. I am not wanting to make excuses, but we have to come to terms with competing alongside people who have been involved in that sort if environment for a long, long time.

''If you examine the resources in Wales you will find that a lot of top players have come back from England and elsewhere, and they have been allocated to four of the best sides.

''The knock-on effect of this has been a cascading of other quality players to the so-called lesser clubs, so you do have high- class performers operating at Caerphilly and Dunvant.

''What I mean by quality is guys who have played for Wales at Under-21, A, or senior level - along with men who have maybe never reached international level but who have played in a tough environment every week for several years. ''Our aim must be to live with that, compete with it and, defeat it.'' Teams:

Pontypridd - B Davey; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Bryant, R Greenslade- Jones; C Sweeney, P John; N T'au, F Vunipola, S Kronk, W James, I Gough, M Lloyd, R Parks, D McIntosh. Replacements: M Taylor, L Jarvis, J Lewis, A Lamerton, R Sidoli, M Griffiths, J Macacek.

Edinburgh Reivers - S Lang; K Milligan, J Hita, G Shiel, M Di Rollo; D Hodge, G Burns; A Jacobsen, S Scott, B Stewart, A Lucking, I Fullarton, C Mather, M Leslie, G Dall. Replacements: M Lee, K Utterson, I Fairley, G Hayter, M Proudfoot, W Mitchell, P Simpson.

Llanelli - M Cardey; W Proctor, D James, N Boobyer, T Kilai; M Jones; P Booth, R McBryde, N Davies, V Cooper, C Wyatt, A Koulai, S Easterby, C Boobyer. Replacements: M Madden, A Thomas, T Copsey, I Jones, D Williams, C Warlow, A Jones.

Glasgow Caley Reds - G Metcalfe; S Longstaff, A Bulloch, J Stuart, J Craig; T Hayes, G Beveridge; D Hilton, G Scott, G McIlwham, S Campbell, J White, G Simpson, J Petrie, D Macfadyen. Replacements: B Irving, R Shepherd, F Stott, M Waite, D Burns, A Watt, D Hall.