Edinburgh Reivers v Glasgow Caledonians

CRAIG Chalmers' hopes of returning to the competitive fray in today's historic Scottish/Welsh Celtic League ''local derby'' were dashed last night when he was forced to pull out of the Glasgow Caledonians line up.

Scotland's most-capped stand-off failed to respond quickly enough to acupuncture treatment for a mystery back injury which prevented him from training throughout the week.

His absence means that Tommy Hayes will retain the No.10 jersey against Edinburgh Reivers at Netherdale - a prospect which delights the Cook Islander who professes to being ''a new man'' after getting his house in order outwith rugby.

Hayes is the first to admit that he had a wretched time with Caley last season - a stark contrast to the sparkling form he showed with hands and boot during his debut term.

It was heartening, therefore, for everyone connected with the Reds to witness glimpses of the old magic again as he gathered two tries against Pontypridd at Bridgehaugh last weekend.

''I am feeling hungry and sharp again,'' declared Hayes. ''There is no doubt that last season I let myself and the team down. There were a lot of factors in my personal life which dominated my year and which were always in my mind when I went onto the pitch.

''I have sorted all that out, I am fitter and more focussed - and I am hugely excited at the prospect of what lies ahead over the next eight or nine months.''

Observers reckoned that Hayes took on more opponents in that one match last week than he did throughout the whole of last season. ''Last term I didn't have the confidence and held back from attacking the ball a heck of a lot,'' he acknowledged.

''Now, I am in much better physical shape, I feel good about trying things and being more ambitious.''

He added: ''With Craig in the background I have no option but to be on my toes for the full 80 minutes. He brings some really tough competition for me and I know if I don't perform then I'll be on the bench.

''His presence will inspire me, and I hope I can also bring out the best in him for the same reasons.'' Hayes is also delighted to be linking up in the Caley midfield with seasoned campaigner Andy Nicol. ''He provides a lot of stability behind the pack with his experience,'' he said.

''In general, there is a really strong feeling in the squad and we want to work hard for each other off and on pitch.''

Hayes agreed that today's encounter will be a whole new ball game compared with previous superdistrict head-to-heads because league points will be up for grabs for the first time.

He said: ''From our point of view, we also want to put things right after losing the Tri-Series to them last term. We didn't perform properly in any of the games. They had more continuity and hit their straps when they came up against us.''

There are three changes in the Reds formation.

Up front, Stewart Campbell ousts Darren Burns and Jon Petrie replaces Marty Waite. Behind the scrum, James Craig is recalled to the right wing in place of Alan Bulloch.

Reivers, meanwhile, are keen to build on last weekend's convincing victory over Caerphilly at Virginia Park, but skipper Grant McKelvey stressed: ''It was a great start, but it will be much harder to keep up the momentum - especially in a match like this.

''We have all been in different leagues with different sides. Now we have to combine all the knowledge of the Watsonians guys, the Melrose guys, and Kelso guys, and use it properly.

''We have to get into the league mentality instead of the one-off situations we have had before. Having points at stake gives the match so much extra meaning. Now it is a full-scale local derby in a very competitive league, just as Swansea v Llanelli is in Wales.''

It is barely a month since the Reivers were heavily defeated by the Reds in the final of the Tri-Continental Tournament in Toronto, but McKelvey insisted that result will have no knock-on effect on today's tussle.

''That is history and pretty meaningless,'' he declared. ''We were under strength and they had a more settled side at the time. Our line-up this weekend bears no resemblance to the one we fielded in Canada - but I will admit that they will probably start as slight favourites.''

Edinburgh Reivers: D Lee; K Milligan, K Utterson, G Shiel, S Lang; S Welsh, G Burns; R McNulty, G McKelvey (capt), B Stewart, A Lucking, I Fullarton, G Dall, G Hayter, A Roxburgh. Replacements: C Sharman, M Di Rollo, M Lee, S Taylor, N Hines, M Proudfoot, S Scott.

Glasgow Caley Reds: B Irving; J Craig, J Stuart, I Jardine, R Kerr; T Hayes, A Nicol (capt); G McIlwham, G Scott, W Anderson, S Griffiths, S Campbell, J Petrie, G Flockhart, D McFadyen. Replacements: G Beveridge, I McInroy, A Bulloch, D Burns, M Waite, A Watt, D Hall.

Referee: Fr. D Tindall (Ireland).

qThe Swansea v Llanelli clash at St Helens is the undisputed Welsh match of the day in the Celtic League. Swansea are smarting from their shock 21-18 defeat at Bridgend, while the Saucepans are in confident fettle after beating Ebbw Vale, who are at home to Caerphilly.

Bridgend entertain Cardiff, whose conquerers last week, Newport, go to Neath. Pontypridd will be expected to run up a cricket score against Dunvant at Sardis Road.

qJason Jones-Hughes has said he would be proud to play for Wales and hoped he could force his way into the team in time for a possible World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Jones-Hughes, speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, was last week cleared to play for Wales, despite being born and brought up in Australia and representing them at almost every junior level and playing for the Australian Barbarians.

Australia objected, but the International Rugby Board said last Friday they had ruled in favour of Wales because the opposition when Jones-Hughes played for the Barbarians - a Scotland XV - was not deemed to be a senior team.

The centre said: ''There has been so much good news surrounding the game here that I want to be part of it. That is why I have made a commitment to Wales.

''I am 23 next week and it is the right time for me to make the move. It is something that has been on my mind for a number of years and I will be very proud to play for Wales,'' he said.