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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

Former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott answers more of your questions as the season reaches its climax.

He discusses:

- His predictions for the Guinness Premiership play-offs;

- Which players deserve to be selected for England's summer tour of Australia;

- The future prospects of Wales following a disappointing Six Nations, and a possible return of Gavin Henson;

- Whether he sees any comparisons between his attacking game and that of Danny Cipriani.

If you have any questions for Jerry, please use the postform on this page. He will answer as many as possible next week, but unfortunately not every question submitted can be used. The answers to this week's questions are below.

With Saracens beating Leicester at Welford Road, it looks as though the semi-finals this year are truly open, no-one knows who is going to win each semi, let alone the final. Who would you like to see in the final at Twickenham come 29 May?
Sam, England

Who do you think will now go on to win the play-offs? Can Bath beat Leicester at Welford Road?
Luke, England

Who do you think is going to win the play-offs?
Kealan, England

Brad Barritt celebrates
Saracens inflicted a first home defeat of the season on top side Leicester

Sam, Luke and Kealan, without doubt after Saracens' last two victories in the league they are on a roll, it has been good to see. I believe Bath have the hardest test as they lost to Leicester in April but it is still a massive ask. Sarries have recently been to Franklins and won, my only concern for Sarries would be the Saints forwards finding the kind of form that put away Munster earlier this season. I agree with Sam that the semis are truly open, form suggests a Sarries and Bath final but there is a reason why the two East Midland sides finished one and two in the league!! One thing is for sure, we can expect two truly epic semi-final matches.

Hi Jerry, with Saracens in enviable form at the moment do you think that their English players will form a large part of the England touring party to Australasia? Such as Noah Cato, Andy Saull and Alex Goode?
Matt, England

Matt, Martin Johnson ignored most of the Sarries squad earlier this year when they were also winning games so it will be very interesting to see which players do make the England squad. Saull has shone with the attacking game, not sure about him in an arm wrestle type of game but he will probably get a place in the squad. Brad Barritt and Goode really do deserve to be on the plane. If they are not included I would be very surprised because their performances have been worthy of inclusion. Cato has a lot of competition for a place though.

As a Pooler fan, do you think the Newport Gwent Dragons should play games at Pontypool and Ebbw Vale? I think it would increase attendances by a few thousand.
Gareth McCann, Wales

Gareth, I think one answer might be for all the members/season-ticket holders to have some kind of vote to see if they agree with you?

Since Steffon Armitage has played so well for London Irish this season, scoring tries in nearly every game for the last two months, don't you feel that he should be given a starting position in this year's summer tour?
Tom Forster, England

Tom, I believe Steffon should be in the squad but I'm not of the opinion he should start just yet. I believe the open-side position is up for grabs. Martin Johnson should give all his open-sides time to show how well or not they are playing. Moody played well in his last game as captain against France there and I've seen no evidence that his form has disappeared. For whatever reason Armitage has not stood out in the few opportunities he has had for England. When he gets his chance this time round he really does have to have an impact.

I'm a fan of Nick Kennedy's but for some reason he doesn't tick the boxes for Martin Johnson. Why not I just can't fathom because Kennedy would make my England team

Hi Jerry, on the upcoming tour of Oz I would like to see players like Will Skinner and Nick Kennedy get picked for the squad. Everyone goes on about Lewis Moody and Tom Rees but Skinner has been one of the most consistent players in the Premiership. My personal view is if they were Leicester, Bath or Wasps players they wouldn't get overlooked.
Michael, England/Scotland

Michael, I understand Kennedy is injured and unfortunately won't be going on tour and Skinner will find it tough to oust the likes of Moody, Armitage, Saull and Rees in the open-side position. I'm a fan of Kennedy's but for some reason he doesn't tick the boxes for Martin Johnson. Why not I just can't fathom because Kennedy would make my team. Skinner has a harder job to stand out because he is playing in a team that has been so inconsistent all season.

Hi Jeremy. Now that Ayoola Erinle has reached a second successive Heineken Cup final, do you think he will finally get a well-deserved run in the England team?
Conor McKeating, Ireland

Conor, he certainly is in the selectors' thoughts having played against New Zealand in the autumn but again there is lot of competition in the centre. Mike Tindall, Riki Flutey, Brad Barritt, Clarke, Olly Barkley and Matthew Tait. My gut feeling is that Ayoola won't be going on the tour down under.

Jeremy, as Leinster and Ireland stalwarts BOD (Brian O'Driscoll) and Gordon D'Arcy head towards the end of their careers who do you see picking up the mantle in the Irish midfield? Earls seems to be the obvious choice at 13 and Luke Fitzgerald has been capped at 12 but what about James Downey, Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave?
DW, Ireland

DW, any team would struggle to replace players of the quality of BOD and D'Arcy. Keith Earls could play outside centre but I'm not sure about Paddy Wallace at inside centre. Every time he's played recently for Ireland things just haven't gone well for him. I haven't seen enough of Cave and Downey to have a genuine opinion. Certainly for next season BOD and D'Arcy will be Declan Kidney's number ones.

Jeremy, having read your answer as to why French teams dominated this year's Northern Hemisphere game, I am surprised you didn't factor into it the British & Irish Lions effect and the way the British players have looked tired all season. Do you think 'normal service' will be resumed next year, at least in the Heineken Cup?
Mark B, United Kingdom

Mark, there's no reason not to think that English, Irish and Welsh teams won't be competing very aggressively for European honours next season. I didn't mention the Lions effect because England hardly had any representation and the Welsh and Irish players did have enough rest. Last season only one French team made the quarter-final of the Heineken Cup so it looks as though anything is possible. One thing is for sure - it will be hard for all teams in next season's competition.

If Olly Barkley does get the number 12 shirt ahead of Riki Flutey does this mean even more creativity is being taken out of the England team with Danny Cipriani also no longer in contention?
Will Cotter, England

Bath's Olly Barkley
Barkley has been tipped for an England recall after some superb form for Bath

Will, it can't be said that Flutey had his best international season so if he's not in the starting line-up you can't say creativity will be missing. Given the way Barkley has performed since coming back from injury he would be the in-form inside centre; creating a lot of space for his colleagues at Bath and kicking penalties very consistently. Cipriani has made his choice and knew he would be risking his international future going to Australia. There is no doubt he has great attacking ability but it's the other parts of his game that are nowhere near the same level and that is why Martin Johnson hasn't or won't pick him in the near future.

Jerry, I fail to see how either Heineken Cup semi-final was played at a neutral venue given that both Biarritz and Toulouse played their home quarter-finals in the same grounds and play some of their pool games there. This gives them a massive advantage. I think the semi-finals should be two-legged affairs. What's your view on the matter?
Frank Wharton, Ireland

Frank, I believe the semi-finals are played at venues designated by the European Rugby Cup. I'm not a fan of increasing the number of games played, let's continue to have a one-off semi. I think the fairest way of deciding where the semi-finals are played would be to have them played at the home ground of the highest qualifying teams. I also agree with the comments made by Peter Bills in a column he wrote last month which you can read if you follow this link:

Why do you think Wasps have had two poor seasons? Is it the management set-up spreading themselves too thinly, lack of leadership or complacency on the part of players? I would welcome your views on the way forward for Wasps now it looks unlikely they will make the 2011 Heineken Cup.
Sue Brown, United Kingdom

Sue, Wasps have had a lot to live up to since their winning years and losing the quality of players that they have over the last two seasons has affected them greatly. Replacing experience is always hard and having one of your key coaches splitting his time between club and international commitments can't be easy. I would say the club have to set realistic expectations and with the current squad, next season should see them trying to attract quality players. A goal should be to finish in the top six in the Premiership.

Have you ever known a more dynamic front row player than Schalk Brits for Sarries?
Ben, UK

Saracens hooker Schalk Brits
South African Brits has starred in the Saracens front row this season

Ben, Schalk Brits has certainly had an amazing season and his performances have been a joy to watch. His energy and running into space plus the quality of offloading and general support, as well as doing the basics of a hooker have been superb. He reminds me a little bit of Steve Thompson at his best for England around 2000/03 but to be fair I can't think of another hooker who has had the same impact in the Premiership as Brits.

Jerry, how do you view Wales' prospects over the summer, given the awful results in both the autumn and Six Nations? Personally, I think some key players failed to perform and the strength in depth just wasn't there to replace them. As usual in Wales, the coaches got the blame, but it's about time the players made a stand about their collective responsibility for their performances. Finally, where would you play a certain Mr Henson, if he is able to recapture past form and fitness?
Exiled Taff, England

Exiled Taff, Wales have the talent. There's not a lot of strength in depth but in terms of a first-choice line-up it is good. I agree some of the big names have played below their best and that's because form does come and go but you do expect these experienced players to be more consistent. I do believe a large portion of blame should land at the feet of selectors because they pick the team and can change it any time they feel a player is not performing. If Wales can take all their first-choice players to New Zealand they should at least put up a good fight...but they would have to play out of their skins to win one game. I do feel Wales have a mental hang-up when it comes to the All Blacks.

As an expatriated but loyal Bristol supporter, I'm chewing my nails already. We are officially England's unluckiest club given that the Rugby Football Union changed the rules governing promotion for the season when we are relegated. So, does Jerry think we'll be celebrating a change of fortune at The Mem on 26 May?
James Hunt, Belgium

James, in my book Bristol deserve promotion but it has been made harder by the new rules, which I think are ridiculous. I do believe you will be celebrating come the end of your very long season.

As a player would you say you were similar to Danny Cipriani? You are both frail in defence, with many men discarding your pathetic attempts of a tackle. In attack you were both quality but he is a more of a footballing rugby player and you were more of a 'glider'. Would you draw comparisons with yourself and Cipriani?
Tom King, Bath, England

Tom, thanks for your informative and knowledgeable words regarding mine and Mr Cipriani's defence. I guess you must have played and ran past or through me on many occasions?! It's always difficult to draw comparisons. Danny is a young player with time on his side so let's see how he does in the future, I hope he comes back from Oz a better player.

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see also
Loss will inspire Tigers - Moody
10 May 10 |  Leicester
Bath 39-3 Leeds
08 May 10 |  English
London Irish 7-31 Northampton
08 May 10 |  English
Newcastle 21-25 Wasps
08 May 10 |  English
Worcester 22-23 Gloucester
08 May 10 |  English
Guscott on Catt
04 May 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
28 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
19 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Guscott's predictions
18 Apr 10 |  English
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
14 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union

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