Though he offered sympathy towards the individual players who narrowly missed out on selection, Glasgow Caledonians coach Richie Dixon yesterday welcomed them back into the fold as he named his squad for tomorrow night's first ever Welsh/Scottish League match against Pontypridd, at Stirling's Bridgehaugh.

There was, though, no room in Dixon's squad for Craig Chalmers - omitted from the World Cup squad as the most capped player among those who had been involved in the build-up over the summer - underlining the former Scotland coach's surprise at the player's availability.

''From Craig's point of view, while it was obviously very disappointing, in fairness to him we've been together since July 19, have had our tour of Canada and are starting to develop our own patterns,'' Dixon explained. ''I think it will take him at least a week to come to terms with what we're doing.''

Naturally, Dixon was resigned to losing full back Glenn Metcalfe, winger Shaun Longstaff, hooker Gordon Bulloch, and back-row man Gordon Simpson, all of whom had long looked sure of their World Cup places. He was, however, concerned that scrum-half Andy Nicol and his fellow Dundonian, hooker Gav Scott, might have made the final 30.

''We're very pleased for the guys from our squad who are involved in the World Cup, but while we're disappointed for others like Craig, Andy and Gavin, then obviously we are delighted to have them,'' Dixon admitted.

While Chalmers has played in two previous World Cups, Scott's chance of making the squad only really emerged last week when he was brought onto the bench for the meeting with Romania. Missing out was perhaps a more bitter blow for Nicol than for anyone.

As a 20-year-old he toured North America with Scotland ahead of the 1991 tournament, only to miss out in the final analysis to Gary Armstrong and Greig Oliver. Four years later, having battled his way back to fitness after a career-threatening injury, a place was left open in the squad for him to prove his fitness. In the event, then manager Dunc Paterson and coach Dougie Morgan went to watch him play in a second team game for Bath and told him at half-time he had earned his place, only for Nicol to damage the other knee during the second half.

''The 1995 one was probably the worst,'' he said yesterday. ''In 1991 everyone was telling me not to worry because there would be another three World Cups to look forward to. To be honest, though, this time with Gary and Bryan (Redpath) established I didn't really think about having a chance until people started talking about them taking a third scrum half a few weeks ago, but it's still a big disappointment.''

Yet, as he was officially named captain of Glasgow Caledonians for the coming season, he outlined just why tomorrow's match couldn't come at a better time.

''It's a very exciting day for a lot of us,'' he said of taking part in what will be the first ever cross-border league match in the Northern Hemisphere at anything below Test level.

''We've talked about this season being a brand new start for Glasgow Caley. We've set goals and spoken about how we're going to achieve them. We're looking to get things right for Glasgow Caley and if we do that international selection will take care of itself.''

Nicol noted that, from his own experience, he knows that Scottish domestic rugby has a substantial image problem to deal with.

''When I was playing for Bath and the European draws were being made, all the English boys wanted to meet Scottish sides because they thought they would be soft touches,'' he said. ''I've said it before, our aim is to take Glasgow Caledonians into new territory.''

Dixon was forced yesterday into a late change to his plans when flanker Jason White withdrew after suffering a bizarre injury which has left his big toe locked and pointing upwards.

''It's called turf toe, and it's just a strange thing that's been caused by the way he stretched his toe when he was running,'' said the coach.

''At this stage in the season it's not worth risking him, but he should be fine by next week.''

Winger James Craig, who is on the bench, will remain in the squad despite having suffered a ''slight fracture,'' to a finger.

Stand-off Tommy Hayes, meanwhile, briefly gave cause for concern after suffering a slight calf strain, but he has been declared fit to play.

White's place in the starting line-up is taken by Martin Waite, with Jon Petrie coming onto the bench.

The only major fitness worry for Caley concerns internationalist Rowen Shepherd, who said yesterday that his wrist injury has been diagnosed as serious

ligament damage. Comparing it to the equivalent of a torn

cruciate knee ligament, he said

he doesn't expect to be fit until the turn of the year.

Though neither side have been able to include World Cup squad members, the quality of tomorrow night's match is demonstrated in the presence of 10 internationalists in the starting line-ups.

Cook Islander Hayes, Nicol, Ian Jardine, and Gordon

McIlwham make up the home contingent, while Pontypridd include Welsh caps Paul John, Gareth Wyatt, Lee Jarvis, Andrew Lamerton, Christian Loader, and Ian Gough.

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

Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt, J Bryant, S Parker, R Greenslade-Jones; L Jarvis, P John (capt); S Cronk, A Lamerton, C Loader, W James, I Gough, M Lloyd, R Field, M Owen. Replacements from - J Colderley, J Lewis, M Taylor, M Griffiths, A Griffiths, D Thomas, R Sidoli, R Parks.