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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

The Heineken Cup quarter-final line-up is now complete and it does not make pretty reading for the English clubs, with Northampton the only side to make it through.

On Saturday, the Ospreys put in a fine display to defeat two-time champions Leicester - although the game was overshadowed by a row over the Welsh region having 16 men on the pitch for a time.

Elsewhere, Saracens rugby director Brendan Venter was given a suspended four-week ban for his criticism of referee David Rose, while Stade Francais prop David Attoub said he was going to appeal against his 70-week ban for eye gouging Ulster flanker Stephen Ferris.

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 questions are below.

Firstly as a Tigers fan, I would like to say how poorly we played against the Ospreys, we did not deserve to win. But my question is this, what do you think should have been done by the ERC about the Ospreys having 16 players on the pitch? The referee should have awarded a penalty, but didn't. The Ospreys' 16th man interfered directly with play by causing Ben Youngs to kick possession away on a break. So what should have been done?
Matthew Thorne, England

Lee Byrne in action for the Ospreys against Leicester
Byrne spent about a minute as the 16th man for the Ospreys

Jerry, what do you think of the Ospreys 16-man mistake? Do you think it made a significant difference to the game or whether it was a misunderstanding and can just be given a fine?
Grace, England

Matthew and Grace, I think there should be an inquiry into why there were 16 Ospreys players on the field at that time. This should uncover who or what was at fault and the process should be changed to make sure this doesn't happen again. I think the result should stand as it is, it would be very unfair on the Ospreys to have a replay. I also believe most of the Tigers supporters believe their team was outplayed at the weekend and to have a reply on a technicality such as this would be unjust.

Hi Jeremy, clearly the Heineken Cup last eight are pretty representative of how Northern Hemisphere rugby stands right now. With Northampton the only English team going through, and London Irish narrowly missing out, it seems clear that their style of rugby is what gets results at the highest level. Is there a call for the England national team to alter their style of play and become more like Saints and Irish? It just seems all other teams and nations are moving their game on, but the English clubs and national team are stuck playing the same rugby they have done for the past decade...
Chris Thomson, England

Chris, the England style of play is generally dictated by the quality and type of player selected. If Martin Johnson (MJ) selected a majority of players from Northampton and Irish, I would expect England to play a more attacking style, similar to those teams. Currently MJ is selecting players from all over the Premiership and France and maybe that explains why we can't see an obvious game plan or pattern of play?

With English clubs performing so poorly in Europe, do you agree that the excessive demands of the Premiership, compared to the French and Magners leagues, are harming English clubs' European chances?
James, UK

With only one English side through to the quarters do you think that it's time that the number of games English players play should be cut to a number similar to that which Irish players play?
Stuart Burton, England

Hi Jeremy, following the defeats of many English clubs over the past two weeks in the Heineken Cup, do you think English rugby is in danger of falling below the standard it is already at?
Alex, England

I do think some of the earlier bans given to players for eye gouging were very lenient - thank goodness this has been noticed by the authorities and some proper bans are now being handed out

James, Stuart and Alex, there are many reasons why the English Premiership only has one representative in the European quarter-finals. London Irish and Leicester lost and drew games they know they should have won, but didn't have the killer punch at the time to see off more aggressive and streetwise opponents - they did have clear opportunities to qualify.

Bath, Harlequins and Sale didn't really perform well enough to deserve a place in the quarters. I do think the Irish and French have an advantage because the Irish only really concentrate on the European competition and the French have a big enough salary cap to allow them to build squads large enough to compete domestically and in Europe.

Jerry, looking at the pool stages of the Heineken Cup it is clear the Irish sides, Munster and Leinster, easily make it into the top four sides in Europe. Why is it that they don't perform in the Magners League? In my opinion this devalues the competition and results in less viewers. Do you agree?
Ben, England

Ben, Munster and Leinster must be doing something right. Since the Magners started in the 2000-2001 season, in those eight seasons the Irish teams have won it five times, with Munster and Leinster winning it twice each - the last wins being Leinster in 2007-8 and Munster in 2008-9.

The Magners doesn't attract the same crowd and media attention as the Heineken Cup, and the marketers of the Magners have got to work to make their competition as big as the Guinness Premiership and the French Top 14.

Jeremy, would you stick your neck out and give us the winners of the Six Nations, Heineken Cup, Challenge Cup, Guinness Premiership and Magners League?
Simon Priestley, England

Simon, thanks for the easy question.... Ireland to win the Six Nations but not the Grand Slam, a French team to win the Heineken, Cardiff to win the Challenge Cup, Northampton to win the Guinness and Ospreys to win the Magners... I will of course be changing my mind as all competitions progress!!

Hi Jerry, can you shed any light on why the more creative 10s seem to be struggling in the northern hemisphere? Shane Geraghty, Danny Cipriani and Ryan Lamb are struggling to hold onto their club shirts, James Hook has been ousted by the less exciting Dan Biggar. Jonny Wilkinson, Stephen Jones, Johnny Sexton (to a lesser extent) and Phil Godman aren't really exciting ball playing 10s, even France no longer find a place for Freddie Michalak... what is behind this trend that is taking the entertainers away from the game? Tim, UK

James Hook in action at the weekend
Hook may need to leave the Ospreys for Cardiff to play fly-half regularly

Tim, when you look around and see the likes of Dan Carter and Matt Giteau playing the way they do, I'm surprised there aren't more like them playing at international or club level. I think it's just a trend we are going through at the moment, with the trend being more about defence and pragmatic play. The 10's that can kick goals and make tackles are more in demand than the more expressive 10's who can run and take risks.

Personally, I feel James Hook should go and play for Cardiff if he really wants to play 10, he would get into that team as first choice and really show us what he's capable of producing at 10.

Hi Jerry, with David Attoub getting a 70-week ban, does this call into question the length of bans that other players received last year, the most prominent of which for me being Schalk Burger, who only received eight weeks for his gouge on Luke Fitzgerald? Do you think there should be a fixed length that will be enforced on any player found guilty of eye-gouging so that we can eradicate it from the game once and for all?
Max Polkey, England

Max, I do think some of the earlier bans given to players for eye gouging were very lenient - thank goodness this has been noticed by the authorities and some proper bans are now being handed out. These sorts of bans should prevent players from doing this despicable act.

Hi Jeremy, do you think Attoub has any right to justification in his appeal against his ban. Gouging is obviously something that has to be dealt with, but do you think he has a point, bearing in mind the inconsistencies of the bans handed out to players for gouging?
Mike, UK

Mike, he has every right to appeal - that is within the rules. The only justification for his actions would be if it was an accident, which is very doubtful!

How long do you think it will be before we see an Italy side capable of winning the Six Nations or at least competing at the top end of the table?
Steve, Isle of Man

Steve, I think it's going to be a long time coming. A couple of years ago they managed a couple of wins and I thought that might be the start of some consistency but it wasn't to be. Having teams in the Magners and European competitions will improve their situation but Italy will have to wait for an era when they can select another six or seven players of the same quality or very near the quality of injured captain Sergio Parisse.

Hello Jeremy. With two Italian teams set to play in the Celtic League do you think the future of rugby in Europe is a regional Super 14 style, meaning England will also have to adopt a similar provincial set up? Or do you think historic teams like Bath and Leicester will resist?
Paolo, Devon

Paolo, I think the money people of the top clubs wouldn't mind seeing a European type Super 14, but who would decide who gets in and who is left out? I think European rugby has everything at the moment, good competitive domestic leagues with the European competition sandwiched in between.

The English clubs used to come together and form divisional sides and for the most part it didn't work out. England is better represented by the individual clubs. I personally wouldn't change anything at the moment.

Jeremy, great weekend of Heineken Cup rugby. I know it is foolish to pick players based on one or two games. However, do you think Delon Armitage looked a little jaded? Do you think Ben Foden would be a better option at full-back for England during the Six Nations? What do you think of a Toby Flood and Mat Tait centre partnership (just like RWC 2007)?
Charlie Garner, UK

Delon Armitage gets to grips with Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll and Kevin McLaughlin
Armitage (centre) is short of his best form but only recently back from injury

Charlie, Armitage looked very rusty and that doesn't surprise me but come the Six Nations he will be back and on form. Foden for me is a good replacement and as yet doesn't deserve Armitage's place. Flood doesn't deserve to be ahead of Riki Flutey at inside centre and personally I wouldn't mind seeing Tait given a decent run at outside centre for England.

Hi Jeremy, do you think there are enough good players coming through the Irish ranks to replace the veterans, who surely only have one or two goods seasons left in them?
Simon, Ireland

Simon, two more seasons will be long enough for some of those players, staying together and keeping fit has to be their goal to reach the World Cup in good form and health. If all the experienced players go at the same time it will undoubtedly cause problems. It has to be Declan Kidney's priority behind the scenes to look at whom he might have to replace and with whom.

Hiya Jez. Based on the performances in this weekend's HC games, who do you think Warren Gatland will choose for his Welsh centre pairing on the opening weekend of the Six Nations?
Rhys Phillips, Wales

Rhys, I don't think there's any doubt he will pick Jamie Roberts and then it will probably be between James Hook and Andrew Bishop to see who partners him.

Jerry, is there a player who played outside your era in the game - can be before or after - who you would have loved to have played alongside?
Richard Evans, Wales

Richard, outside Danie Gerber would have been a bit of an armchair ride, my only concern would be getting him to pass me the ball. Tana Umaga would be another who could blast the holes and link, which I would have enjoyed.

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see also
Ospreys & Byrne in 16th man blow
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
London Irish 11-11 Leinster
23 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Bath 10-28 Ulster
23 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Sarries win but still exit Europe
23 Jan 10 |  Saracens
Falcons reach Cup quarter-finals
22 Jan 10 |  English
England switch New Zealand Test
01 Apr 10 |  English
Attoub launches gouge-ban appeal
22 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Guilty Venter has ban suspended
20 Jan 10 |  Saracens
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
19 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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