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Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England & Lions centre

England may have been well beaten in all three of their Tests against the Tri-Nations sides but I'm not sure Martin Johnson can make big changes for the Six Nations.

Delon Armitage attacks in England's defeat by Australia
Delon Armitage was a rare success as England struggled in November
On results England have a long way to go but it's not as simple as that, because I don't think there are that many players that can come into the squad to make it better.

There were some successes but England performed so poorly it wasn't too difficult for people to stand out.

I thought full-back Delon Armitage played well but I was disappointed by winger Paul Sackey - he looked lazy and lethargic and like the old Sackey rather the player he has been over the past year or two.

As an experienced international he should lead from the front and lead by example but he waited rather than led.

Harlequins winger Ugo Monye didn't do himself any harm, while Wasps open-side Tom Rees will be a good player as long as he is not used as a ball carrier. He has to be a link player, not a battering ram.

London Irish second row Nick Kennedy has to be invested in. He reminds me of Ian Jones, who wasn't a huge, heavy player but survived in international rugby.

In a really bizarre way I think things are exciting for Johnson.

For me Wales full-back Lee Byrne was quite easily the stand-out player in the November internationals

The spotlight moves away from him now until the week before the Six Nations so he can really get stuck into his job.

Johnson needs to look at every single player very closely, be very critical and decide whether they have an international future.

He also needs to concentrate on working on specific things with his players.

For instance, he has to work on Danny Care not running across the field and the same with Danny Cipriani.

He has got to work on the centres and get them straightening the line.

I have to say I saw nothing in those three matches against the Tri-Nations sides that made me think Riki Flutey and Jamie Noon's positions are safe in the centres.

Scotland will definitely cause problems in the Six Nations - if they carry on playing like they have been there is no doubt they will win matches

Johnson also needs to work on the general skill of the whole backline - in fact the entire team.

Wales will approach the defence of their Six Nations crown in confident mood because they are playing well.

Their win over Australia on Saturday was probably the pick of the matches all autumn in terms of excitement and pace and it was good to see Wales play for the full 80 minutes rather than just 40.

The Welsh coaching team of Warren Gatland, Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley will be pleased with their squad's performance throughout the autumn although, if you were to be critical, they should have beaten South Africa as well as Australia.

Moffets Ghost
Number eight Andy Powell and full-back Lee Byrne both impressed me and Wales have found another international quality winger in Leigh Halfpenny.

For me Byrne was quite easily the stand-out player in the November internationals, and that includes the southern hemisphere players as well.

Only injury will stop him making the Lions tour of South Africa next summer.

The Welsh front five didn't seem to struggle and Ryan Jones, who started poorly, finished the series well, while Martyn Williams just keeps on going and playing brilliantly.

They've got to look after him and I'm sure they will.

Lee Byrne celebrates as he goes over for a try against Australia
Lee Byrne looks nailed on for a berth on the Lions tour of South Africa

Ireland fans will have to forgive me because I didn't see many of their matches and so can't comment on them, but Scotland ought to be fairly pleased because of all the teams I think they improved the most.

New Zealand was a tough learning experience, while they were very unlucky against South Africa.

If I was a Scotland player I would have been very disappointed with the result against the Springboks because it was an opportunity missed, but at least they ended on a high by running in six tries against Canada.

Scotland will definitely cause problems in the Six Nations. If they carry on playing like they have been there is no doubt they will win matches.

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

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see also
Jeremy Guscott column
28 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
England 6-32 New Zealand
29 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
England 6-42 South Africa
22 Nov 08 |  English
England 14-28 Australia
15 Nov 08 |  English
Wales 21-18 Australia
29 Nov 08 |  Welsh
Wales 9-29 New Zealand
22 Nov 08 |  Welsh
Wales 34-13 Canada
14 Nov 08 |  Welsh
Scotland 41-0 Canada
22 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 17-3 Argentina
22 Nov 08 |  Irish

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