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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

Following another busy weekend of club rugby union action, former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott answers your questions on the game's big talking points.

Some of the topics under discussion include:

How the threat of Napolioni Nalaga can help Clermont Auvergne spring a surprise in the Heineken Cup;

Why Northampton deserve respect, even from Leicester fans;

Who the best coaches in world rugby are;

And why Cardiff Blues' failure to replace key players has been a major factor in their struggles this season.

If you have any questions for Jerry, please use the postform supplied on this page. He is unable to answer all questions submitted, while the answers to this week's email postbag appear below.

Hi Jeremy, statistics show that an average of one Heineken Cup (HC) quarter-final ends in an away win. Who do you feel is best equipped to achieve this?
Seamus Burke, Ireland

Napolioni Nalaga hands off Bayonne full-back Pierre Bernard
Nalaga has been the top try scorer in France for the past two seasons

Seamus, all the home teams look very strong but if I had to pick a team for an away win it would be Clermont Auvergne against Leinster because they came through a very tough group. Their team is not full of superstars but they work very hard for each other and have an amazing match-winner in Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga.

Jeremy, is it about time for everyone to stop going on about Northampton's wonderful attacking style? They struggle to finish off the opposition in tight games, and this season have one try bonus point to Leicester Tigers' five? Do you see them being able to progress any further in the HC with aimless attacking?
Adam Cort, England

Adam, I'm guessing you must support Tigers! Northampton have done a pretty good job this season and have put themselves in position to win a few trophies despite only having one try bonus point. I don't think winning the HC would have been a realistic target for them at the start of the season, but reaching the knockout stages would have been and they've achieved that.

Munster away from home is going to be extremely tough and a victory at Thomond Park would really make people stand up and take notice, no matter how many bonus points they do or don't get. I do like their approach to games and with players like Ben Foden and Chris Ashton they have genuine match-winners. I don't expect them to win against Munster but stranger things have happened.

Jeremy, don't you think that it's time for an exciting, tactically astute and, more importantly, experienced coach to take over the England role? Jim Mallinder, for example?
Matt Barker, England

Matt, Martin Johnson will be the England coach up to and including RWC 2011. I would have liked Johnson to have changed the coaching team he inherited so he could put his mark on the team. The likes of Mallinder, Toby Booth and possibly Dean Richards will get their shot after the RWC if England fail to get to the semi-finals.

Jeremy, do you think that Leeds Carnegie have what it takes to stay up this season and, if so, can they continue on to become a force within the Premiership in the future?
Paul, England

Paul, the relegation battle is very intense and is likely to go right down to the last weekend of matches. Sunday 25 April is a massive day for Leeds, they play Worcester at home and I think the loser of that match is likely to get relegated. If Leeds stay up then it will be down to their summer recruiting to see if they can attract more quality players to allow them to compete at the other end of the Premiership.

Jerry, since Richard Cockerill (RC) has taken over at Leicester, the team have started to play a more expansive game and they have moved away from the largely forward dominated game of old. Why do you think Cockerill has chosen this path as he was, after all, an old Leicester forward?
Angus, England

Angus, you just have to give RC a lot of respect in keeping Leicester at the top of the Premiership. Tigers were hit by injury at the beginning of the season and couldn't buy tries, but look where they are now! Cockerill has been very candid when talking about performance - whether losing or winning he says it as it is.

His very upfront approach is refreshing and I believe players and supporters respect that. Leicester play the game in its simplest form, they concentrate massively on the set pieces and pride themselves on having one of the best scrummaging units in the league. Leicester's forwards produce good, quick, quality ball that their backs thrive on - that's why they are doing so well.

What would be, in your opinion, the most likely top four at the end of the season?
George, England

George, Tigers, Saints, Sarries and Irish.

Hey, do you agree with your old team-mate, Rory Underwood, that England should bring in new, younger players on the summer tour to Australia?
Kyle, Scotland

England go to Australasia this summer for what is their most important tour in years if we're going to make any progress before next year's RWC. After the selection and tactical mistakes made during the autumn internationals and Six Nations, what do you think England should realistically try to achieve this summer and what players should they be taking and blooding before the RWC? I think Alex Goode, Courtney Lawes and Joe Simpson all have to be given game time.
Leon James, Philippines

Alex Goode in action for Saracens
Goode may be rewarded for a fine season with an England tour

Kyle and Leon, I understand England will be taking a large squad of players down under, maybe as many as 43. With that number of players going I would expect to see the likes of Simpson, Goode and Lawes going, along with many other youngsters. It will be important that these players get some game time - I don't see the point of taking them and not playing them.

Jerry, there has been a lot of talk this week about whether the England coaching staff are up to the job. It got me thinking, after 2011, if Johnno was to resign, who would be the best men for the job? In your opinion, who currently are the best coaches in world rugby?
Alex, England

Alex, there are quite a few good coaches currently heading up national teams and of that group, I like Robbie Deans. RD has done a fantastic job with the Aussies and they look very good with the RWC only a year and a bit away. My view on the England coaching job is it should go to someone who understands English players and the coaches best suited for that would be the ones working with them now, or who have done so in the past. If MJ gets sacked or resigns people in line to take over as head coach would be the likes of Booth, Mallinder and Cockerill, and I would also include Dean Richards.

Ollie Smith has admitted he has his sights set on an England recall after agreeing to join Harlequins. what do you think about him and the chances of this happening?
Alex, England

Alex, I haven't seen Ollie play in a while and it will be interesting to see if he has improved during his time in France with Montpellier. Quite simply if he plays well he will be in with a shout.

Jerry, I know the 2011 World Cup is still a while away and that a lot can happen from now till then. However, do you think that with England's almost non-existent progress (despite the French game), Scotland's continued improvement and Argentina potentially producing the same level of performance as they did in 2007, that Argentina and Scotland will be the favourites to go through to the quarter-finals from Pool B? (This would be more relevant after the 2011 Six Nations, but I just wanted to know your view right now.)
Sam, Australia

Sam, the group is tough for England and I agree that right now it would take a much-improved England team to qualify for the quarter-finals. I believe Scotland will get better but I'm not sure about the level Argentina will be at. However, either way it's going to be difficult for MJ's team. I'm really looking forward to seeing how England get on.

Do you think Dai Young's insistence on sticking with the inexperienced Sam Norton-Knight at fly-half has cost the Cardiff Blues this season? I know blaming one player is extreme but if we'd had a more experienced half-back I think a play-off place would've been a possibility.
Stuart Thomas, Wales

Stuart, Cardiff haven't done well this season compared to last and you're right, to pin it on one player would be wrong. Young failed to replace like for like when Nicky Robinson and Jason Spice left, these two players were integral to Cardiff Blues' success. I still believe there is enough quality in the Blues squad to have done better this season but the top players have struggled.

For the life of me I cannot understand why former New Zealand prop Carl Hayman has committed to Toulon, therefore ruling himself out of contention for the 2011 World Cup. Apart from the money involved, why else would he ever rule himself out of the World Cup in his home country?
Gerald 'Gingerlad' Darley, England

Gingerlad, it's his decision and he is very happy with that. It must have been tough, but life-changing money, for some people, is bigger than taking part in a World Cup. Maybe he just thinks NZ won't win?!

Hi Jeremy, just wondering, in your opinion who are the fastest men in world rugby?
Daniel Mortham, England

South Africa speedster Bryan Habana in action for the Barbarians
Habana - here playing for the Barbarians - is a flying machine

Daniel, I would love to see all these players in a race over 60m: Bryan Habana, Shane Williams, Napolioni Nalaga, Ugo Monye, Tom Varndell, Josevata Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu.

Jerry, I browse through your predictions and I honestly cannot remember the last time you predicted a Wasps win. For the close matches you usually tip the home side but for this week's match against London Irish, where you said you weren't sure, you opted for the away side?! Why is this?!
Bennyboy69, England

Bennyboy, Wasps did a great job on Irish and thoroughly deserved their victory. I believed, wrongly, that Irish had learnt from last season and had what it takes to win the big matches but it looks as though they're still not quite there! Next time I'm going to stick with a home victory!!

Jerry, I was selected to play for the Scotland Women's academy in early January. I have played and trained with them for months, then a few weeks ago they emailed me saying that they have only just realised I am not completely eligible and therefore couldn't carry on anymore. I was gutted and now I am having problems even wanting to play, train or watch rugby anymore. Any tips you think could help? Thanks.
Grace, England

Grace, keep your head up and get stuck in with training and playing again. You've worked too hard to throw it all away, find out who you actually qualify to play for and aim to get there. Good luck, keep us posted of your progress.

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see also
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
31 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Guscott's predictions
01 Apr 10 |  English
Leicester 43-20 Bath
03 Apr 10 |  English
Leeds 7-14 Northampton
03 Apr 10 |  English
Wasps 33-22 London Irish
04 Apr 10 |  English
Glasgow Warriors 27-19 Dragons
04 Apr 10 |  Glasgow

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