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Page last updated at 05:25 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 06:25 UK

Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England & Lions centre

I think England will go with Toby Flood as fly-half for the November internationals.

Toby Flood
Toby Flood has done enough to secure the England number 10 shirt

The Jonny Wilkinson era is over because we know what he can do and he would need to show a new dimension to reclaim his place.

What he can do is awesome. His defence is great and his goal-kicking is second to none but I think the new era has to see more emphasis on attack.

That means going down the Danny Cipriani and Flood route and, with Cipriani still recovering from injury, it looks fairly certain to me that Toby Flood is doing well enough to take that number 10 position.

Flood's extra dimension is his attacking, running ability.

He did not do anything brilliant for Leicester against Gloucester on the first weekend, but against London Irish last time out we saw a couple of breaks and he was clearly starting to find his feet and before long he will flourish playing for Leicester.

For a professional rugby player defence should be a given. We used to take passing down the line as a given as well but that seems to have disappeared as well and England need a change.

They need to be more dynamic and more attacking and Flood should be part of that process.

Cipriani definitely will be when he is fit again and his absence is one reason why Wasps have made such a poor start to the season.

They are clearly suffering from the loss of Lawrence Dallaglio, who was Wasps' cornerstone for so many triumphant years.

But since arriving on the scene Cipriani has made such an impact in the way they play and perform - he has pretty much been their focal point as they strive to move into the post-Dallaglio era.

His absence has made things more difficult for them but also the very fact they are the champions brings its own problems.

It is a cup final for every team that plays them and they are a scalp that every side wants.

They also traditionally start slowly, but this year I think it is going to have an impact.

Lawrence Dallaglio
Wasps are clearly suffering from the loss of Dallaglio
Having said that you cannot really bet against Wasps and although it looks tough for them this year you have to be sensible - you cannot write them off after two games.

If they lose against Northampton on Saturday, yes, they will be up against it, but it seems Wasps need to be put in a predicament to perform.

Ian McGeechan has suggested that Wasps are being penalised for trying to play too much rugby under the ELVs, but while it might be one of the reasons I do not think it is a fair excuse.

The defensive line is the same as last season. It is no better or stronger and therefore no more difficult to penetrate.

I think there is maybe complacency there - they expect things to just happen, but clearly they aren't.

Looking at the weekend's games, I think Bristol will win at home to Sale.

They will target their home games because they will feel they need to win seven games to keep them in the Premiership.

Leicester are not playing particularly brilliant rugby but are winning and Flood is only going to get better

Jeremy Guscott
Their fly-half Adrian Jarvis needs to up his performance, as do the pack, because they have some talented backs in the likes of David Lemi and the Arscott brothers.

Sale will be pushing for the top four and will expect to go there and win, but I think it is going to be extremely tough for them and I am going to go for Bristol.

Gloucester turned the corner against Bath. They did not play particularly well but they deserved to win because they won the tackle area.

This week will be harder because Harlequins are playing well but if Willie Walker kicks his goals I expect them to win.

Based purely on last week's performance I expect London Irish to beat Bath.

They were unlucky against Leicester because Peter Hewat, who kicks goals for fun, had an off day, and if Irish have their main guys back then they are a tough proposition at home.

The odds say Wasps are going to win one sooner or later but I think Northampton got a wake-up call at Newcastle when they ran into an in-form Jonny Wilkinson, who inspired his team to victory.

The result of this game will tell me a lot about Northampton because I have always doubted their mental toughness but I am going to go for a home win.

Leicester are not playing particularly brilliant rugby but are winning and Flood is only going to get better.

But I have no doubt Worcester will not be involved in a relegation battle this season and I am going to go for a surprise Worcester win at home to the Tigers.

I cannot put my finger on it but there is something about this Worcester side and the way they are developing.

Worcester are a much-improved team and Leicester are not playing particularly well, even though they are winning, so I expect Worcester to win.

My caveat is that they have to kick their penalties - do that and they will take the points.

With Saracens against Newcastle I can only see a home win because Saracens' pack will be too strong for the Falcons, although it will be a good kicking battle between Wilkinson and Glen Jackson.

Jeremy takes time out each week to answer a selection of questions from users on 606:

You were a very artistic centre in your time, but nowadays those seem to be in short supply - most 13s seem to be content to "bash it up the middle" - do you think that there is a dearth of talent in the outside-centre slot?


Coaches have everything to do with this as they determine the style and tactics of a game, which in turn dictates what kind of player is best suited.


It does seem the modern game is more defence orientated rather than attack orientated and that is why you have seen these huge centres and backs appear.

I have to say that I did enjoy the performances of Conrad Smith and Ryan Cross in Saturday's Tri-Nations game; they both looked to attack outside and inside the defender and very often succeeded.

Jerry, given the impact of players like Jonny Wilkinson on Wasps and Danny Cipriani on Wasps, do you think the Premiership should be suspended during internationals so as to minimise the impact of their loss on their clubs?


The short answer is no, because the development of players needs to continue.

When the internationals are away it gives the other members of the squad a chance to come in and compete and show that they are good enough.

I also do not think we can afford to have a break because the season is long enough as it is.

Clubs know their position at the start of every season and this scenario is what you prepare for - I do not think there should be a break.

The Northampton chief executive believes that the wage cap should and will inevitably come to an end. What do you think will be the effect on the Premiership and more importantly English rugby?

I think the Northampton chief executive is probably right and I do not see a problem with that as long as the Premiership can legally restrict the amount of overseas players playing in the Guinness Premiership.

It is important that the Premiership produces and further develops English players, but at the same time I understand rugby is a business and it is all about winning by whatever legal means you can.

The salary cap appears to be a bit of a joke; looking at the size of some squads and the personnel in those teams you have to question how they manage to stay under the cap and so you might as well open it up.

It may appear that the gap is growing but let us see what happens this season before getting too carried away. Last weekend Worcester beat last year's champions. It is only one game but there could be a lot more to come.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.

see also
Bristol v Sale (Fri)
18 Sep 08 |  English
Gloucester v Harlequins (Sat)
17 Sep 08 |  English
London Irish v Bath
18 Sep 08 |  English
Northampton v Wasps (Sat)
16 Sep 08 |  English
Worcester v Leicester
18 Sep 08 |  English
Jeremy Guscott column
15 Sep 08 |  English
Jeremy Guscott column
12 Sep 08 |  English
Jeremy Guscott column
10 Sep 08 |  English
Jeremy Guscott column
05 Sep 08 |  English

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