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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

Jeremy Guscott
Former England and Lions star Guscott is a BBC rugby union pundit

After an icy few weeks the weather finally relented and there was plenty of action around Europe as the Heineken Cup re-emerged after its mid-winter break.

The Scarlets caused the biggest shock of the weekend by beating London Irish and Cardiff Blues and Gloucester both claimed good home wins, while off the field Stade Francais scrum-half Julien Dupuy had his ban reduced by a week.

The other big news saw Martin Johnson name his England squad for the Six Nations, with Shontayne Hape and Chris Ashton added to the 32-man selection.

If you have a question for BBC Sport rugby union expert Jerry, you can submit it by using the form in the top right-hand corner of the page. He will answer as many as possible early next week, while his answers to this week's postbag appear below.

With Tom Croft injured, do you feel Chris Robshaw should be given a chance on the blind-side flank for England? Or persevere with Haskell at six? Or maybe even Phil Dowson?
Ian, England

James Haskell on the charge for England against Argentina
Haskell played eight in the autumn but is a natural six

Ian, the names you've mentioned shows us that England boss Martin Johnson has the pick of some very good players. Another one I would add to the mix is Leicester's Jordan Crane. I know he's normally a number eight, but he has the attributes to play on the blind-side. Johnson's selection is critical, but I would persevere with Haskell because at his best he has more to offer all-round than the rest.

Hi, Jeremy. Following Ben Foden's man of the match performance against Perpignan in the Heineken Cup, do you think that England could start Foden at 15 and combine Riki Flutey and Delon Armitage at 12 and 13? With Flutey's footwork and Armitage's pace and size, could this work well considering Armitage has played well at outside centre for London Irish in the past, whilst allowing Foden's counter attacking to come into play from full back?! Playing Chris Ashton and Foden in the same back three would also be handy as they have combined well this season for Northampton!
Harry, England

Harry, Foden has been a player on fire over the last 12 months and if selection were purely on form you would have to find a place in the team for him. Your combination of Flutey and Armitage could work but that would be just to accommodate Foden at full-back at the expense of Hipkiss, Hape or Tait at outside centre. Personally, I prefer to see players playing for their country in the positions they play for their club, week in, week out. Armitage would be my first choice at full-back. However, I would definitely have Foden on the bench as cover for the back three. If England played in the same style as Northampton then there would be good reason to include more Northampton players such as Ashton and Shane Geraghty.

Jezza, what do you think are our (Northampton) chances of beating Munster on Friday?
Mark Green, Singapore

Mark, on present form it's very hard to separate the two teams. But, with both being so closely matched, I would have to go with the home side winning. I really hope both coaches can select their first-choice players. If Northampton are to be considered a serious threat in this competition then Thomond Park is the sort of place you have to go and win at. Munster have been winning away from home for years.

Hi, Jeremy. Who do you think is going to go through to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup?
Ruaidhri Duddy, England

Individuals who inspired me include coaches like Ian McGeechan and Brian Ashton, who really understood how the game should be played and how to get the best out of players

Ruaidhri, I think the quarter-final line-up will include these teams: Munster, Northampton, Biarritz, Leicester, ASM Clermont, Stade Francais, Toulouse and Leinster.

Jerry, in your recent piece concerning the England squad, you chose Banahan at left wing for the England team to start the Six Nations. Please could you justify that (and the inference that it is because he plays for Bath)? You yourself have said you don't think he's fit enough. There are at least three wings who are fit and offer so much more in terms of pace and attacking threat - Ashton is obviously one but also David Strettle and James Simpson-Daniel. Banahan is just a big lump, and an unfit one at that (your words). He's not even particularly quick. You need so much more at club, let alone international level.
Ed Shaw, Manchester, UK

I agree with many of your comments about England looking forward to new talent and bringing in new players. Having watched a lot of England's play it's been almost unbearable at times, so I'm all for giving players a run in the side. What I can't understand is why you have selected Matt Banahan of Bath on the wing for the opening game of the Six Nations. Surely he is one of the most one dimensional wingers around and showed in the autumn internationals he only runs at people not round them. Against Wales he's likely to be up against proper whippets and I don't see it going well. What are your thoughts? Jonty Messer, England.

Ed and Jonty, your points are valid and I wouldn't disagree that Ashton deserves a shot, but I would still pick Banahan ahead of your choices. It's not because he plays for Bath, I truly believe that if attack coach Brian Smith uses him properly he could create havoc amongst defences. I would like to think someone is working on his fitness.

With the inclusion of Shontayne Hape in the EPS, what are your views on including such players (and Flutey) who are native to another country and have even (in Hape's case) represented that country, albeit in a different code? Would you prefer to see only home grown players included to give the younger English players a chance, even though they may not be as good in the short term? Do you think this will be damaging in the longer term for young English players trying to break through? And are there any English centres you rate highly enough at the moment to pair at international level?

ATB, personally I don't have a problem with the likes of Hape, Flutey and, in the past, players like Mike Catt representing England. They qualify to play for England and if the England selectors feel they are better than home grown players then that's their choice. I don't think it will be damaging. It is what it is and individual players have to prove they are better than the rest to be selected.

I agree with you that Steve Borthwick is not good enough to be in the England team, but who would you have to replace him as captain?
Chris, England

Chris, for the Six Nations I would select Nick Easter, Simon Shaw or Lewis Moody.

Hi, Jerry. I see in your Six Nations team you have put Easter at number eight when you constantly criticise him. Why not put Crane there instead?
Michael Lambert, England/Scotland

Michael, I've watched him play a bit more and I now have mixed views on Easter. At club level, he has performed consistently well and almost single-handedly won games for Quins. In international matches, for me, he hasn't had the same impact, but I feel he's more of a team player and suited more to England's style than Crane. Having said all that, I do like the look of an English back row comprising Moody, Crane and Haskell.

Would you choose Gordon D'Arcy or Paddy Wallace to start at 12 for Ireland? Similarly, there are questions regarding the merits of Tomas O'Leary/Eoin Reddan, Keith Earls/Andrew Trimble/Shane Horgan, John Hayes/Tom Court and obviously Ronan O'Gara/Jonathan Sexton. Do you anticipate many of these issues being addressed? Robert, Ireland

Gordon D'Arcy steps for the Lions
D'Arcy was good enough for the Lions - will Ireland pick him?

Robert, I would definitely select D'Arcy but Kidney seems to prefer Wallace?! D'Arcy appears to have got back his appetite for the game and is playing well alongside Brian O'Driscoll for Leinster. As for the choice between Sexton or O'Gara at fly-half, that's why I'm glad to be a pundit and not a coach because that's a really tough choice and I can't split them at the moment. O'Gara has risen to the challenge and his last few performances for Munster have been inspiring, but Sexton is the man in possession and I have to wonder if he deserves to be dropped. For me, in the back three ,Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney pick themselves. That only leaves one wing spot for players to challenge for. Luke Fitzgerald is likely to miss the Six Nations because of a knee injury, which may open the door for the in-form Horgan on the wing. If Fitzgerald was fit, I'd play him, but Horgan is in good form so why not?

Jeremy, do you think that if Wales have a full strength team (minus Mike Phillips) there could be a bit of a hammering for England?
Lewis, Wales

Lewis, I don't think it will be a walk in the park for Wales at Twickenham but if they recapture the form shown last season against Scotland, and England play like they did in the autumn, then yes, it could be a bit one sided. As it stands, Wales have lost the knack of scoring tries and England don't really have much of a visible game plan. I think it will be a scrappy game littered with mistakes that England will just win. I'm hoping it won't be a bad match to watch and we will see a revitalised Welsh team and an English side that can put phases of play together and score tries, resulting in an English win!!

Do you think Ulster now have a realistic chance of going through to the next stage, taking into account their inconsistent away form. I'm also hoping for a favour from Edinburgh.
Simon, N. Ireland

Simon, wishful thinking. Good luck!

Stade Francais scrum-half Julien Dupuy recently had his ban for gouging reduced by a pathetic one week, from 24 to 23 weeks. The citing panel graded the offence as 'at the top level of seriousness for an offence of this type'. If this was the case then why are these panels not using the full range of the punishments available. By branding it at the top level of seriousness, surely they should use the maximum penalty, which is three years? This would surely help stamp this cowardly act out of the game. Would you agree?
Rob, England

Rob, I think you have a valid point. If Dupuy caused serious damage then I would like to think he would be banned for life. I think a six-month ban is long enough to discourage players from gouging.

Jonny Wilkinson in action for England against New Zealand
Good... but not that good, Wilkinson is not in Jerry's top four from the '90s

I just saw that you didn't include Jonny Wilkinson in you answer to someone's question about the best player of the decade. Why would this be? Surely the best defensive and kicking 10 ever, and the best all round 10 between 1998 and 2003, and a heck of a player from then on, especially the World Cup '07, should be in with a shout!?
Henry, England

Henry, despite your good points, JW he still doesn't make my top four players of the last decade - it's a personal choice. While Wilkinson was a brilliant player from 2000-2003, I don't consider he has the same legendary status as Martin Johnson. Brian O'Driscoll played well throughout the decade, Dan Carter was the best number 10 in the world for seven of those 10 years and Richie McCaw the best for the same period of time, if not longer. If I was to add another player then Wilkinson might make it, along with several others, but he just doesn't make my top four.

Hey, Jeremy. Tell me, who has been your biggest inspiration in the game of rugby? Tim Laughton-Scott, England

Hi Tim, I had a few inspirations, particularly watching the Welsh team of the 1970s and the 1984 Wallaby Grand Slam team. Individuals who inspired me include coaches like Ian McGeechan and Brian Ashton, who really understood how the game should be played and how to get the best out of players.

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see also
England suffer Croft injury blow
19 Jan 10 |  Leicester
Jeremy Guscott column
13 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Ashton & Hape earn England calls
13 Jan 10 |  English
Dupuy ban shortened by one week
14 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Attoub handed 70-week gouging ban
19 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Cardiff Blues 36-19 Sale Sharks
16 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Clermont Auvergne 27-7 Ospreys
16 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Leinster 27-10 Brive
16 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Stade Francais 15-13 Bath
16 Jan 10 |  Bath
Leicester 47-8 Viadana
16 Jan 10 |  Leicester
Gloucester 23-8 Biarritz
16 Jan 10 |  Gloucester
Treviso 7-44 Munster
16 Jan 10 |  Munster
Leeds & Worcester earn Euro wins
16 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Northampton 34-0 Perpignan
17 Jan 10 |  Northampton
Toulouse 33-21 Harlequins
17 Jan 10 |  Harlequins
Glasgow Warriors 29-25 Dragons
15 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Ulster 21-13 Edinburgh
15 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Albi 14-16 Newcastle
15 Jan 10 |  Newcastle
Connacht 20-10 Montpellier
16 Jan 10 |  Connacht
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
04 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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