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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

It has been another difficult week for the home nations, with Scotland and England both coming in for criticism despite winning at the weekend.

England edged past Argentina in a shocker at Twickenham while Scotland beat Fiji, but Jerry was not impressed and explains why below.

He also runs the rule over the Welsh midfield and whether there is life for Ireland after Brian O'Driscoll, owns up to where he got THAT scarf (see above) and, in the light of the forthcoming movie which sees Matt Damon star as Francois Pienaar, reveals which film stars he thinks would do him justice.

If you have a question for 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 next week.


Do you think it is time that England employed a coach with some record of success? It's no coincidence that Declan Kidney, Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards have all prospered on fairly meagre resources compared to England.
Alan Morrison, Ireland

Mike Ford and John Wells seem to be the common factors in the England set-up over the past three years. Does the recent performance of the England team lead you to question their abilities?
Bill Hart, England

Alan and Bill, it inevitably leads to questions about their abilities because of the performances. What would be really refreshing would be if Martin Johnson made the announcement that he was going to change the set-up.

It's incredibly difficult to do that at this time of year because people are already in position, so it would be a very brave decision by Johnson.

Ultimately it would be Rob Andrew's call, but it would take Johnson's initiative for that to be implemented.

All the management is under intense scrutiny but the question we have to ask is, have England actually underperformed?

Is this the best we can expect from England? And if it is, it's a hell of a reality check.

There's no doubt Johnson didn't have the qualifications to come in, but he certainly has the brain to be a very good manager.

He has to accept though that his position has a lot do to do with his coaches.

If he's confident they can do the job then he's going to stick by them.

I don't see any changes happening quickly, certainly not in the middle of the autumn series.

Having said that it would be a hell of a statement if he did it and that would be the sort of Martin Johnson I know and played with.

At the moment I am seeing a very uninspiring England team that Johnson would be incredibly frustrated playing in.

Steve Borthwick is a good enough player to play for England, however, I do not believe he imposes himself enough on the game. Do you think a change of captain could provide England with much needed leadership and direction during Tests?
Sam Stephenson, Newcastle, England

England captain Steve Borthwick
Borthwick fails to convince at the highest level of rugby

Sam, it is time Borthwick was moved. Steve has proven himself to be a good club captain but in the international arena I truly believe he's struggled to impose himself, both as a player and as a captain.

A lot of people would agree that the best second row combination would be something like Simon Shaw and Nick Kennedy, or Courtney Lawes and Kennedy.

England lack a go-to man. You've got Jonny Wilkinson, but he can't do a forward's job and take them where they need to go.

When Martin Johnson was captain of England there were a number of players you could rely on to get over the gainline or stick in a big tackle to regain the momentum, but England can't go to Borthwick because he is more likely to get smashed backwards than get over the gainline.

He's had his chance and I think it's time he was left out of the side.

Why are you so anti-Martin Johnson? When Clive Woodward was appointed, did he win the World Cup because of what he had built in 2002, thereby lifting it in 2003? No that team was a good four or five years in the making.

And another thing, he commands the ultimate respect, is there someone else "English" you have that can fill those shoes? We need to give him time.
Noel Dyer, England

Noel, I'm not anti-Martin Johnson, I respect the man massively. I think he will be given the opportunity to at least manage the side until the end of the 2010 Six Nations.

What we need to see is development in performance and personally I haven't seen any in the last 12 months.

I take on board the injuries and that is a difficult situation to deal with but I would just like to see some very simple play by England, because the game is simple, it is just made difficult by players and coaches.

The simple fact is that England are struggling to get over the gainline and play with any pace, power or domination.

I know England have not been dominant up front for four or five years now but it is still not a good situation to be in.

The responsibility lies with Johnson - if the team loses, the buck stops with him.

When things aren't going well it's not a great job to have - not that any job is in that situation - but he accepted the job believing he could make a difference.

One simple thing I thought would be improved would be the fitness of the England players.

OK, there have been injuries, but when a team falls away like they did against Australia it tells me the team isn't as fit as it should be, so not even that area appears to be getting any better.

But there is no way I am anti-Martin Johnson. He is a good man, but does not necessarily have the experience for the job.

Hi Jerry, I was quite disappointed in and, to be honest, bored by the English team's performance on Saturday. Apart from the well-documented lack of invention, what do you think about the selection of players out of their club positions? My case in point being Ugo Monye, a fabulous winger and part-time cover full-back, not an international full-back (yet).
Nathan Mayne, United Kingdom

Nathan, if it works it's great, if it doesn't you make yourself look silly.

It was good for them to put Monye back on to the wing and move Mark Cueto to full-back, but I've said before that I would have gone for Northampton's Ben Foden at full-back.

He's played there most of this season and a lot last season and he's showed some real touches of class.

He is a footballer, he can kick, he can certainly impose himself by coming into the line at pace and he likes to take on players.

At the moment it just seems that the back three positions are viewed as utility positions but when someone like Monye is exposed, as he was, it makes you understand that full-back is a specialist position.

Would you play James Hook at 12 with Jamie Roberts outside, to give Wales a midfield spark? Or even vice-versa? Or have Hook at 10?
Anthony, UK

Anthony, I'm glad to see Wales have picked Jonathan Davies of the Scarlets to partner Roberts - he was my preference to come into the side before it was announced.

I don't disagree with bringing Hook in to maybe create a spark but Davies has shown some form this season, he's scoring tries and he's aggressive in contact. He actually enjoys contact and he'll get over the gainline.

Roberts and Davies can also swap as the ball carrier.

I think Hook is starting to enjoy playing at full-back - he's just trying to get used to it, but it isn't going to be his long-term position.

I spoke to my good friend Jonathan Davies - the other one - and he quite likes Morgan Stoddart.

I do agree with Jonathan sometimes, and if he says this guy is quick and has got something about him then it might be worth giving him a try.

Hi Jeremy, It seems to me that Welsh attacking play has never been feebler. What has happened to Wales - were they overrated before or have they gone downhill now?
Matt, Wales

Shane Williams in high-flying action at the 2007 World Cup
Wales struggled after Shane Williams lost his spark

Matt, it seems to be a problem for all the home nations, even Ireland to a certain degree, that everything is flat.

There's no spark, no excitement, it's almost like they're waiting for it happen - no-one's taking the initiative.

I don't think Wales have flattered to deceive for the past couple of years, they've played some great rugby, with Shane Williams as the catalyst.

He's not been as sparky as he was just over a season ago, when he won the IRB player of the year award and showed some fantastic form.

They are missing Shane in his best form and also Gavin Henson. He might not have been that dominant in terms of setting the backline alight for Wales but this could have been his opportunity.

He has real class and with Wales being so flat it's a shame they're missing Henson.

It's really a mental thing for these players, they have to take the initiative and show us what we know they are capable of.

Hi Jeremy, I was just wondering on your views on how Ireland will progress after such an amazing last season . With guys getting old such as Ronan O'Gara and Brian O'Driscoll, are the younger players ready to come through and shine?
James, England

There is much talk going around that Declan Kidney should consider moving Brian O'Driscoll to inside centre, in order to blood in the likes of Keith Earls at 13, what do you make of this?
Chris, Ireland

Chris, some players get better with age and I'd say O'Driscoll is a good vintage at the moment - he's not getting any worse and his all-round game is still very good.

O'Gara is going to come under pressure from Jonathan Sexton and that is just the passing of time - eventually someone takes over.

We saw at the weekend that O'Driscoll is still the man when he scored the crucial try that helped Ireland draw against Australia - he is a great leader and still a very good player.

It would be quite interesting to see Earls at outside centre. He certainly has the legs and is certainly brave enough - it is something I would really like to see.

Every time I watch Paddy Wallace in the centre he always gets bashed and comes off the pitch battered and bruised.

I'm not sure Ireland's centre combination is right at the moment. You need someone big and at the moment they've only got Tommy Bowe of the right size for carrying the ball up, but it would be interesting to see Earls at outside centre.

Going forward, Ireland have every chance of defending their Grand Slam title.

There is class throughout the side and I look forward to watching them play, although having said that I thought they were very boring at the weekend to be honest.

I expected 40 minutes of what I saw 80 minutes of, because they would be rusty having not played together.

I thought they would be much better by the second half, but they weren't that great.

I thought the BBC pundits were too harsh on Scotland. Saturday's performance has to be seen in the context of the past 10 years of Scottish rugby - an era plagued by lack of belief, control, discipline and basic errors at crucial times. I thought for the first time in a decade we looked composed, in control and well prepared. Care to tone down your criticism?
Duncan, Scotland

Andy Robinson looks on during Scotland's win over Fiji
Scotland's performance left Robinson with plenty to ponder

No, and I'll tell you why Duncan.

Andy Robinson said in the interview we had with him that rugby is a very simple game, and the Scottish players made it very difficult on Saturday.

I feel for coaches, because what they do on a training pitch is not being put into practice during the game.

I really, really liked the look of the Scotland side. It was picked to do a job - to consistently get over the gainline and power through Fiji - but they couldn't keep hold of the ball long enough.

Andy Robinson is trying to get this Scottish team to play like the Australians.

If you watch the way Australia played against England, and to some degree against Ireland in the second half, they weren't flash, they weren't that ambitious, they just went route one, either through the forwards or the backs.

Scotland are capable of producing that rugby but they can't afford to make errors.

I get frustrated because these guys are full-time professionals.

It doesn't matter if you are ring-rusty as a team, individually you should still have the skill to be able to pass in front of a player and to run onto a pass and catch it.

You should go into contact and not lose the ball - I would want any player I coached to make sure the ball comes back 99% of the time.

For players to lose possession, or to be turned over, is embarrassing. It's a basic part of the game that should happen smoothly and it's not.

I'll reiterate that I like the look of this Scotland team but they underperformed on Saturday.

Neither I nor Duncan want to wait another 10 years to see them play well again - I'd like to see them play well in the next Test.

Jeremy - have you any thoughts on why Scotland are so short of quality number 10's?
Brodie, Scotland

Brodie, When your playing resources are limited it's going to be hard to find an incredible number 10.

Gregor Townsend was probably the last world class fly-half Scotland had but look at England at the moment or Ireland - it's a tough position.

Fly-halves these days are very steady players such as Stephen Jones for Wales or Jonny Wilkinson for England.

They're not great runners but they're good kickers and good tactical 10s.

Godman could grow into that player. It shouldn't be difficult to bring your backs or back rowers into play, it's just about doing the right thing at the right time.

Number 10 is about making decisions and even if you're slow you can always make the right decision.

With the success of the Heineken Cup and the Super 14 what are the chances of the IRB organising a champions final between the winners of the two competitions. I for one would love to have seen a Leinster v Blue Bulls match.
Ger Hehir, Ireland

Ger, I think it would be brilliant to see but if I have one question at the moment it is 'are these guys playing too much rugby?'

The game seems to be dominated by revenue at the moment. Until they get the need to generate revenue in synch with the amount of rugby players are capable of playing, they're going to play too many games.

The northern hemisphere champions, against the southern hemisphere champions, is probably one game too many, although if they did have it then Japan or Dubai would be the sort of venues to hold it in.

I've no doubt the northern hemisphere team would be competitive - look at the way Leinster played in last year's final to beat Leicester.

It wasn't a great spectacle but in terms of atmosphere and intensity it was superb.

After the Dan Carter high tackle, the Scottish forward pass try, and other incidents, do you think there is a case for the fourth official being able to make decisions during the game?
Matt Lambert, UK

Matt, I think there's a place for the fourth official to come in to play but it needs to be tested, because I wouldn't want to see the game stopped any more than it is already is.

There is a case for it being introduced for the last phase of play before a try being scored, but it is a case of where do you draw the line? What happens if a knock-on occurs in the penultimate phase?

Personally I think the last phase of play is reasonable.

There's a lot at stake and we should do anything we can to make sure the decisions are correct.

Do you think there is any chance that the RFU/IRB will reintroduce players being allowed to ruck? It was my understanding that a lot of the ELV's were introduced to quicken the pace of the game yet they have slowed the game considerably by removing a defender's incentive to roll away from the tackle area.
Peter Frost, England

Peter, I wholeheartedly agree rucking should be allowed back in the game because it would ensure the ball is freed up much more quickly and would speed up the game.

The sooner they bring it back into the game the better - we will get more of a spectacle because it will enhance attack, which is sadly lacking these days.

At the end of today's Scotland/Fiji match John Inverdale made a quip about the scarves that you guys were wearing. Is yours BBC issue or can you say where it came from? I really like the design and would like to get one.
Keith, England

Keith, it is a three-year old scarf from a sponsor that I am prevented from mentioning under BBC regulations governing commercial matters! A lot of people have commented on it but it keeps me warm and will remain around my neck until the moths eat it away.

Jerry you may have seen trailers for the new film 'Invictus' based on the 95 World Cup in South Africa? Nelson Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman and Francois Pienaar is played by Matt Damon. The question is, which actor would you like to play you?
Dale Butler, England

Dale, I'd like a cross between Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy.

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



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see also
England call-up for Erinle & Shaw
18 Nov 09 |  English
Wales 33-16 Argentina
21 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Sexton to make debut for Ireland
17 Nov 09 |  Irish
Scots unchanged for Aussie clash
17 Nov 09 |  Scottish
Scotland 23-10 Fiji
14 Nov 09 |  Scottish
Ireland 20-20 Australia
15 Nov 09 |  Irish
Wales 17-13 Samoa
13 Nov 09 |  Welsh
England 16-9 Argentina
14 Nov 09 |  English
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
02 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
27 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
21 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Ask Jeremy Guscott
13 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Ask Jeremy Guscott
06 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union


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