On the face of it, the very reason the game is one of only two Celtic League matches going ahead this weekend should make it a mis-match.

The end of Scotland's autumn Test series means Glasgow Caledonian Reds travel with a side containing 13 internationalists, seven of whom were heavily involved in those games against Australia, Samoa, and the USA.

Pontypridd, meanwhile, unhappy at having to kick off in the evening to accommodate television, had no excuse for cancelling because none of the six Welsh internationalists in their squad are in sufficiently good form to make the Wales squad for tomorrow's Millenium Stadium clash with South Africa.

Such a conclusion would, however, be simplistic nonsense as a trawl through the Reds' short history demonstrates:

lSeptember 9, 1998 - Rob Wainwright, the captain, and Keith Robertson, the coach, having claimed the Reds target was to win the European Cup in the absence of English clubs, they fell spectacularly at the first hurdle, losing their first pool match 43-21 at Firhill. Neil Jenkins scored 18 points on an embarrassing day when Reds officials also had a run-in with the police.

lNovember 11, 1998 - somehow, the Reds could still reach the European Cup quarter-finals if they beat Ponty by 14 points. Instead, on a grim night in the Rhondda, the result was 32-3, three tries to nil, with Jenkins scoring another 17 points in what proved to be Robertson's last meaningful match in charge before his sacking.

lSeptember 3, 1999 - optimism could hardly be higher as the Reds set out on their first ever league campaign with a home fixture, their visitors - minus Jenkins, transferred to Cardiff during the summer - cast very much in the role of guinea pigs as the first Welsh side to travel to Scotland on Celtic League duty.

However, Lee Jarvis, formerly Jenkins' apprentice at Ponty and back from Cardiff in exchange for his old mentor, made a triumphant comeback, kicking 20 points, including two penalties from inside his own half as the Reds, despite scoring three tries to two, lost 30-22.

lDecember 6, 1999 - a week later, the Reds would claim a famous victory over Leicester in Perth, but demonstrating just why Welsh clubs have long dubbed Sardis Road ''the House of Pain'', it was the same old story as they were crushed 44-10.

lOctober 7, 2000 - morale was again soaring in the Reds camp going into the Heineken Cup, a week after a dramatic meeting with Cardiff had seen them join the defending champions at the top of the league.

The destruction of their confidence was total as they were routed 40-25, four tries to one, with Jarvis again registering 20 points. The Reds went on to lose all three remaining pool matches in October as they again failed to make an impression in Europe.

That the New Zealand-born Scotland A cap who subsequently went on to become a Welsh internationalist out of Pontypridd, Dale McIntosh, is known to one and all at Sardis Road as ''The Chief'' could hardly be more appropriate, then, in the context of a series which has seen one side hold the Indian Sign over the other to such an extent.

The former club captain and his successor, Paul John, their combative scrum half, are very much the driving force behind keeping Pontypridd competitive against all sorts of odds in recent seasons, while they will be hoping that the arrival from Warrington Wolves of ex-Great Britain rugby league winger Alan Hunte may add another dimension to their game as he debuts today.

Of course their home ground helps, too, news that it had passed a pitch inspection yesterday drawing one Scottish observer to enquire wryly as to whether they had feared it might be too dry.

That even Pontypridd thought the pitch might be waterlogged must be cause for concern in a week which saw Richie Dixon, the Reds coach, take his players to his old stomping ground at Stirling's Bridgehaugh, to train on their back pitches beside the Forth by way of replicating conditions at Sardis Road.

Indeed, there was almost a sense of desperation about his admission that: ''We are looking at ourselves and wondering how we can break this particular problem we have.

''We need to look at ways of overcoming our inability to win away from home.

''We are not looking at matches as home and away so much as just games, but I was annoyed at myself because I should have done this earlier and I am experienced enough to know better.

''Our facilities are so good at Dalziel that you just get on with it, but Pontypridd's pitch and some of the others in Wales are not the same as our training field.

''Going to Stirling gave us that opportunity to prepare better and the heavens even opened up to help us.''

Whether that divine intervention will be sufficient to swing the balance seems doubtful, though.

Should the Reds win today they will break the log-jam which sees half the 12 sides in this wonderfully competitive Celtic League sharing top spot, but the clever money will back Pontypridd, currently three points behind, joining that group.

Dixon has attempted to change the sequence by opting for youthful exuberance and a pacey side.

In the conditions they will encounter, though, this will be all about character rather than quality. Teams:

Pontypridd - B Davey; A Hunte, S Parker, J Lewis, L Woodard; L Jarvis, P John; C Loader, F Vunipola, N Tau, B Cockbain, R Sidoli, D McIntosh, R Parks, M Owen. Replacements - R Neville, G Wyatt, C Sweeney, J Bryant, J Evans, AN Other, W James.

Glasgow Caledonian Reds - A Bulloch; J Steel, J McLaren, J Stuart, J Craig; T Hayes, G Beveridge; D Hilton, G Bulloch, G McIlwham, J White, S Campbell, G Simpson, D Macfadyen, J Petrie. Replacements - G Scott, A Watt, C Stewart, R Reid, F Stott, B Irving, S Longstaff.