Swansea v Glasgow

As they attempt to claim their first Celtic League victory over Welsh opposition, Glasgow Caledonian Reds have a great opportunity today to transform the early impression that has been created of the Scottish challenge.

After the high hopes that they began the season with, the Scottish teams have under-performed badly, even taking into account the fact that they have been without their World Cup squad members.

Edinburgh Reivers are among the front-runners only because

they have faced the competition's two real minnows, and they failed

to impress at Dunvant last week after building up a substantial first-

half lead. The Reds, meanwhile, are toiling badly towards the

bottom of the table.

As ever, the Scots have struggled to cope with being favourites going into matches.

However, very few sides have to carry the burden of that tag when they visit Swansea's St Helens and, particularly after their home defeats by Pontypridd and Ebbw Vale, the Reds are no exception.

''It's a big challenge, that's for sure,'' coach Richie Dixon said as they travelled down by coach


''Obviously, even without their current internationalists, Swansea are one of the top clubs in Wales and they are the current Swalec Cup holders.''

After dropping points in their first match, Swansea have won the next two to be in second place in the Celtic League.

That should be no great

surprise, however, when it is considered that the great old British Lion, Robert Jones, and the erstwhile boy wonder of Welsh rugby, Arwel Thomas, form a diminutive, but high-class, partnership at half back.

They are the ideal combination to provide the opportunities for the two other caps in the back line, wingers Richard Rees and Matthew Robinson, to get involved.

In all, both of today's sides boast eight caps in their starting line-ups and, on the face of it, the visitors should be able to lay claim to even greater fire-power in their back line, with Cook Islands cap Tommy Hayes paired with fellow internationalist Andy Nicol, and three more capped players, Ian Jardine, James Craig, and World Cup man Shaun Longstaff further out.

The greatest concern for the Reds, however, is the way in which their pack was pressurised by Ebbw Vale last week and the subsequent damage done to them with the injuries suffered during and after Tuesday's World Cup warm-up meeting with Scotland.

Fortunately, though, they have still been able to put together a high-quality back row in Gareth Flockhart, recovered from the neck injury that kept him out in midweek, fellow A cap Darren Burns, and young Jason White, who toured with Scotland during the summer, while Hayes will hardly be seen as a weak link in Craig Chalmers' absence.

Indeed, Dixon believes that, despite back-row pair Jon Petrie and Marty Waite both being injured during the game, that meeting with Scotland has provided his men with the necessary impetus for this difficult journey.

''The thing that we have taken on board from Tuesday is that it was very combative until Scotland started to put fresh legs on in the latter stages,'' said the coach.

''The feeling among the players is that the attitude just wasn't as it should be against Ebbw Vale, and they are determined to get that sorted out.''

He accepted that having failed to win games that they would have expected to, they are now very much underdogs for this afternoon's match.

''All our guys know the score, however. They are front-line professional players and they know what is expected of them,'' said Dixon. Teams:

Swansea - A Lawson; R Rees, R Jones, A Barnard, M Robinson; A Thomas, R Jones; D Morris, C Wills, C Anthony, T Maullin, J Griffiths, P Moriarty, R Appleyard, L Jones. Replacements - A Booth, D Griffiths, L Davies, J Evans, M Jones, J Bater.

Glasgow Caledonians - B Irving; S Longstaff, J Stuart, I Jardine, J Craig; T Hayes, A Nicol capt; D Hilton, G Scott, G McIlwham, S Griffiths, S Campbell, D Burns, G Flockhart, J White. Replacements - W Anderson,

A Watt, A Brown, D Hall, F Stott, A Bulloch, R Kerr

q Former Wales team manager Robert Norster is returning to rugby in a similar role with Cardiff. Norster, who played for the club more than 250 times over 11 seasons, will fill the post on a part-time basis, while continuing as product sales manager with finance company Chartered Trust.