ON Sunday coming, West of Scotland will play host to Melrose, and very possibly their biggest crowd of the season, in the quarter-finals of the Tennents Cup. It is a big task, with Melrose the undisputed champions of all things Scottish. If the Burnbrae side are to have any success, then they will be looking to their young guns to do much of the damage and cement the bond that is there both on and off the pitch. It seems as though half the West team all share the same West End flat, although in reality it is Gordon Bulloch, David McLeish, and Guy Perrett who fight over the food in the fridge in their lodgings, and that number is set to decrease as Perrett is to buy his own place.

''The club tried to bring in players over the summer, and last year we tried to get Kenny Logan to join,'' said Gordon Bulloch, the Glasgow captain.

''But we stuck to the players we had, and we have some people in the team who have been playing above themselves.

''The tactics for the Melrose game will be to work hard up front and put the tackles in. Everyone knows how they play, the battle we have is to try to stop them.''

Lest anyone is in doubt, the reason West of Scotland went up this year is because they were the only truly profes- sional rugby team in the city playing at a higher level. David Johnston quotes Chris Boardman, the Olympic cyclist, in his paper calling for a more professional approach to the SRU itself, and Boardman has an illuminating line about amateurs: ''If you want people to do something for nothing then you cannot demand a service.''

Johnston quotes Boardman as saying. ''You can ask, you can hope, but you cannot demand.''

West, by contrast, have been able to demand that their young players put in the work to bring success. West have been paying #30 a game, and then #15 a point. A win nets #60, which is #60 more than their rivals. ''It buys the beers at the end of the evening,'' said Bulloch. So it does, but included in the handing over of cash is something much more intangible which implies that the reward is only there for effort, and lack of effort is to be sniffed at, or not rewarded at all.

One prerequisite for West will now be to try to keep a hold of their youngsters, like Bulloch, McLeish, and young speedster James Craig, in the face of what has already been not inconsiderable poaching.

''I hope all the boys stay, including James Craig, to let us mount a serious challenge next year.''

Definitely staying for one more season at least is Kelso man David McLeish. At 6ft 4in and a tad under 16st, McLeish has been able to use his pace and lack of fear to good effect for both West and Glasgow this season.

McLeish, I didn't appreciate, is a bit of a boffin, studying for a Masters degree in product design engineering at Strathclyde University. Rugby will have to cope somehow with the demands on these young blokes, who not only want to take in a rugby career, but something outside that as well.

He trains his body every day of the week, but McLeish also has to extend his mind most evenings as well. ''I train Tuesday and Thursday with the club, but other days at university,'' said McLeish. ''It's pop mobility on Mondays, and then all of the machines, like rowing machines, on other days.

''But I work late most nights studying and that is important to me. Best of all I like to go running, so this summer that is what I'll do.''

Be warned, if you see a rather large bloke puffing up Maryhill Road it could be the West No.8.

McLeish is only 21. He knows some of the Melrose boys he will be up against, but whereas we might think of Melrose as being young, he says they are all older than him.

''Two years ago Melrose and Watsonians recruited the best players, and we know all about them, but there is no official line about what we are going to do to beat them yet,'' he said. ''Just like next year, this is going to be a big game. They all seem to be big games for us from now on. If we want it badly enough we can win.''

Which is a sentiment echoed by Bulloch. ''When we played Melrose last year it was a disaster, with the bus breaking down, and they hammered us,'' he said. ''This game will be about spirit and played, we hope, in front of a massive crowd.''

Spirit, yes, and no doubt a win bonus, too. Good luck on Sunday, West.