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Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A

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

Week two of the Six Nations started with a bang as Wales stunned Scotland with an astonishing come-from-behind victory in Cardiff.

The win was one of the most exhilarating in the history of the championship, although the occasion was tarnished by serious injuries to three Scottish players.

France then laid down a marker by outclassing defending champions Ireland in Paris, before England ended the weekend's action with a whimper, grinding out a narrow win over Italy in Rome.

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 this week's answers appear below.


Jerry, why did we see England, armed with a string of gifted attacking backs, insist on aimlessly kicking away so much possession? Also, how can England expect to win tournaments with no leader? Surely it is time to give captain Steve Borthwick the boot.
Joshua Scrannaghan, UK

Lewis Moody and Gonzalo Garcia compete for a hanging kick on Saturday
Both sides spent plenty of time kicking the leather off the ball on Sunday

I had to be restrained to stop myself breaking my TV after about the 70th time England kicked away possession against an unorganised (if brave) Italian team. Why does this team, with a bit of potential in attack, always feel the need to kick away possession, especially against such a weak Italian team?
Francis, England

England kicked too much, had too many silly errors/penalties which killed their momentum and several backs appeared to have tunnel vision (not passing). Also a lack of supporting runners at crucial stages. What changes do you think we will see for the Ireland game? Will we see Ben Foden come in for his counter-attacking game?
Matt, England

Joshua, Francis and Matt, for the life of me I can't understand the aimless kicking from the England back three. The lack of ambition is my main worry, which leads me to believe these players are being coached to return the ball kick for kick. The options available to the back three on Sunday were numerous because the Italian chase generally wasn't pressurising. If you move the ball quickly away from the catching area into space, you open up more options. It is a case of high kick, chase and challenge, catcher beat first defender and look for support. Maybe you attempt a little chip over the first line of defenders, gather and attack. Or kick the ball into touch and pressurise the weak Italian line-out. Every time England fielded a kick from the Italians, they were only going to kick it back. There was no other thought in their minds, which is so disappointing.

Hello Jeremy. After the abject performance against Italy, do England stand any chance against France or Ireland?
Keith, England

Keith, of course England can beat Ireland at Twickenham. Remember last season, Ireland only won at Croke Park by a point! Ireland are not playing their best at the moment. They need to break out of playing a tight game that relies on opposition mistakes resulting from intense pressure. Ireland have a backline that teams dream about - and Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls deserve the ball in hand, delivered quickly on the front foot. However, England can win enough ball from the set piece and can challenge effectively enough at the breakdown to make this game very competitive. England, too, must use their backline more effectively. We only saw one strike move against Italy. It worked, but England didn't back it up with more.

Hi Jerry. Are you as worried as I am about manager Martin Johnson's satisfaction after England's poor performances? He seems to have developed a culture in the dressing room that disregards poor performances as long as the team scrapes a win. Surely this is all a product of Rob Andrew's ridiculous decision to hire a coach with no experience? I'm at that terrible stage where I almost want us to lose so we can get rid of him and start afresh to avoid World Cup humiliation.
Peter Beck, England

Jeremy, in your opinion do Borthwick and MJ really believe their own rubbish about "taking positives and creating chances" or are they in fact fully aware of the dire lack of direction, leadership and execution on the pitch? In which case, are they merely trying to cover their own backs ahead of an inevitable media backlash? Either way, where is the honesty and how can England improve if the management don't open their eyes to the stagnation in their ranks and utter frustration of the fans? How long can this go on for before Andrew finally steps in and admits England are going nowhere under Johnson?
Nick, UK

England captain Steve Bortwick rehydrates ater Sunday's unconvincing victory
Borthwick was close to sounding delusional with his views on how he believed his team played because the team's performance was terrible

Peter and Nick, I thought Johnson was more realistic with his assessment of his team's performance than Borthwick. I feel Johnson's frustration, because I believe there is a basic structure to how he wants his team to play, but the players, for some unfathomable reason, keep on failing. I don't care what anybody thinks, England lack a captain with the authority to lead his team during a game. He's not helped by players like Jonny Wilkinson, who can't release a backline with any effect. Borthwick was close to sounding delusional with his views on how he believed his team played because the team's performance was terrible. They knew exactly how Italy were going to play, but they couldn't implement a game plan to counter it.

Jeremy, are you as concerned as I am at the lack of English attacking ability? Isn't Jonathan Davies right in saying Wilko cannot and never has been able to set the back line going???
Fred, Wales

Jerry, is it time England started to look beyond Jonny? No one can knock him, he's been a legend for England, BUT are England just stacking everything on him? He's just one player! I think it's time he stepped aside and England found a new identity. There are players there who don't deserve to be the supporting cast. Would you drop him?
Dave Morgan, England

Fred and Dave, JW is integral to England's progress in terms of winning matches in this current climate - kicking penalties in these tight matches makes the difference. What he and England need is a leader/playmaker in the backline. JW always operated at his best with Mike Catt or Will Greenwood alongside him, and that position has yet to be filled successfully since their retirement from the game. JW normally (I think against Italy it was unusual he missed so many kicks at goal) kicks a good percentage of penalties, which keeps the scoreboard ticking over and England ahead of their opponents. If England drop JW and replace him with Toby Flood, then their whole philosophy of how they want to play the game will have to change. I think if JW was dropped, then you would have to look at changing the coaching team and the whole way that England play the game.

Jerry, the games on Saturday were absolute classics, and every team involved showed a willingness to attack and entertain, even Andy Robinson's Scotland! When he coached England, they produced the same mindless drudgery that we witnessed on Sunday, under Martin Johnson. But since leaving the England set-up, he has re-established himself as a quality coach (which he probably always was!). Is it a fundamental problem with the English international set-up? It seems that since 2003 no matter how qualified the coaches, or good the club form of the players, we still witness these appalling England performances?
Nathan Darby, England

Nathan, England are suffering from a lack of talented players, which is unusual given the number of players that play the game in England. Every player that plays for England at one stage or another has to decide if they play the game to be told what to do, or do they stand by the abilities that made them the players that they are? At some stage, a player or players have to say, "I'm sorry coach but you're wrong." That person/player will have to be of such standing they can't be ignored. There is only one player of that standing. His name is Johnny Wilkinson and he's unlikely to disagree with MJ, so it will continue as it is until a player realises that it needs to change and makes a stand. Just think what it would be like if England decided to play like Scotland and really took the game to the opposition, stood by their convictions of how they think the game should be played and backed themselves? Until they do that, I'm afraid we will just have to suffer what we see!!

There's no doubt that there was contact but it wasn't enough to make Lee Byrne fall as though a sniper had taken him out from the stands

Hi Jeremy. Whilst I think that the England team have some way to go to be taken seriously again as World Cup contenders, I do find some of the commentary about England's play overly negative. In football, if a top team wins but plays poorly against 'lesser' opposition, commentators say that's the sign of a good team, knowing how to grind out results. I'm not sure what the commentary team is looking for... England have often 'won ugly' to an extent... apart from the final, the 2007 World Cup being a fine example.
Rob Doyle, England

Do you not think you were a little hard on England? The support running and tactical kicking left something to be desired, and Jonny had an almighty off-day, but at least England looked capable of scoring at several points during the match. And give Italy credit, they were a different team to last week, and played their spoiling game to near perfection. So whilst there are elements to work on, I don't think England's performance was anything like the nadir you made it out to be.
Jonathan Broad, England

Rob and Jonathan… Firstly no, I thought I went easy on the England team's performance and Rob you're so out of sync you could be forgiven for being related to a member of the England rugby coaching staff!! On current form, and with only about 18 matches for England until the World Cup, I wouldn't give them much chance of getting past the quarter-finals. Italy should have been blown away in the way that they will be when they play France on 14 March. Italy are an average side that should have been beaten by at least 20 points.

After a run of average performances, Shane Williams finally showed his class again on Saturday. He looks like he has got his match fitness and confidence back. Do you think he can have an impact on the French and, indeed, the rest of the championship?
Martin, Wales

Shane Williams celebrates his match-winning try on Sunday
Williams scored a dramatic last-gasp try to give Wales victory over Scotland

Martin, the game worked out for Shane because it broke up and became a game of instinct. Playing off the cuff is Shane's forte. He is a class performer and showed when it mattered he can deliver!

With Shane Williams equalling Gareth Edwards's tryscoring record in the Five/Six Nations, do you think he will go down in history as one of the best players ever?
Zia Hussain, Scotland

Zia, Shane Williams is a class act and will be remembered forever.

Was that Lee Byrne playing for Wales or was it Ronaldo? The contact with Phil Godman was minimal and he went down like a soccer player in the penalty box. Are we destined to see more soccer-type antics invade our sport?
Les Davidson, USA

Les, he did what most other players would have done it that situation and then it becomes a decision for the referee. I think he made more of the contact with Godman's foot than necessary but, as I say, it comes down to the ref's interpretation.

Hello Jeremy. As a Welshman I found Wales' comeback win exhilarating, but my euphoria was somewhat dampened when Andy Robinson later asserted that Phil Goodman did not trip Lee Byrne. What do you think?
Gary Preston, Wales

Gary, there's no doubt that there was contact, but it wasn't enough to make Byrne fall as though a sniper had taken him out from the stands!

Jerry, a great clash between Scotland and Wales. Do you see this as a turning point in Scottish rugby where they might become serious contenders for the Six Nations crown?<br>Freddie Newton, UK

Freddie, it was a fantastic game of rugby that produced everything we love and enjoy, apart from the serious injuries. There is no doubt that if Scotland continue playing in that way they will improve enough to be serious opposition for anyone!

Who do you feel has the edge going into the match between Ireland and England? Ireland are no doubt deflated after the French match, but England have only beaten Ireland once in the last six years, and on paper the players are probably the best group they have ever had.
Conor, Ireland

The Six Nations has a habit of throwing up unusual results or performances and we all know how quickly the French can change from being geniuses to jesters!

Conor, Ireland should win but the defeat against France will have knocked a lot of confidence out of them. I agree on paper that they have a far superior team. However, they aren't playing in a way that makes me believe they are using all the talent available to them. If Ireland took a leaf out of the Scottish manual of how to play rugby and went for it, then they would beat England comfortably.

Do you reckon that Ireland will misfire even more now that they have been beaten both physically and mentally by France?
Adam, Northern Ireland

Adam, I don't think the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell will allow it. One defeat doesn't make a good team a bad one or one without belief.

Jeremy, I hate to bring it up, but Alun Wyn Jones gets 10 minutes in the bin for Wales against England for a little trip. Flannery gets a penalty given against Ireland for absolutely booting the French player. Should referees be consistent across the board, this hardly seems fair. Flannery should have at least seen 10 minutes in the bin, if not red for serious foul play!
Dave Ashton, Wales

Dave, there is no doubt that Flannery should have been sent off, I hope the citing commission proves its worth now it has decided he has a case to answer!

Jerry, France's performance against Ireland reminded me of their typical style of play in the 1970's/1980's, combining real physical qualities with searing back play. Clearly, in the modern professional era, it must be more difficult to practice this typical "French flair", but the current crop are looking to express themselves in the classic way. How good do you think this is for rugby generally, and how far can this team go?
Freddy Chen, UK

Freddy, France look formidable and it's going to take a good team to beat them. But the Six Nations has a habit of throwing up unusual results or performances, and we all know how quickly the French can change from being geniuses to jesters!

Why didn't Scotland kick the ball dead on the restart after Wales had equalised and time had run out?
Terry Navin, England

Terry, only Mike Blair, who restarted, knows the answer to that question!

Do you get as frustrated as I do watching rucks where the ball is clearly 'out' but teams do not challenge for it through fear of being penalised. Surely clearly defining this issue would help the problem of slow ball?
Nick , England

Nick, counter-rucking is the answer but as rucking seems to be an act of the past, refs and teams have forgotten about it.

Do you think the elimination of passing back into the 22 and being able to kick out on the full has worsened the kicking game and not improved the impetus to attack, as was intended? Is this the reason for the eyesore of aerial ping pong do you think?
Eben Harris, Wales

Eben, it certainly hasn't helped the situation, but I still think it shouldn't have as much of an impact as it does. A kick is a kick. Good kicks deserve respect, bad kicks should be run back with interest!




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see also
Wales 31-24 Scotland
13 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Evans to undergo second neck op
16 Feb 10 |  Scottish
Italy 12-17 England
14 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
France 33-10 Ireland
13 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A
08 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
26 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
19 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union


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