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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

A weekend of European and domestic rugby action has thrown up plenty of talking points for former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott to get his teeth into.

He discusses:

- The Heineken Cup semi-finals;

- A change of playing style for Saracens;

- Bath's recruitment of Leicester fly-half Sam Vesty;

- Soane Tonga'uiha's contract saga;

- And the renaissance of Wasps winger Tom Varndell.

If you have any questions for Jerry, please use the postform supplied on this page.

With Northampton and Ospreys bowing out of the Heineken Cup this week and England and Wales' poor showing in the Six Nations, do you think the two nations are falling behind their European counterparts and the rest of the world?
Mark Piotrowski, England

Martin Johnson
Johnson's England were not too far off the pace in the Six Nations

In my view, the Guinness Premiership has definitely gone backwards in terms of basic skills and attacking ambition. This, in turn, has had a direct impact on the England team.

Welsh teams have done OK in the Magners League but pretty much failed in European competition. However, at Test level I don't believe the national team has been affected too much. Wales have a good team on paper and it just hasn't been clicking consistently.

I don't believe either England or Wales have really fallen significantly behind the rest of Europe. England could have won any of the games they lost in the Six Nations, while Wales could have beaten England, were effectively robbed of a chance of beating Ireland by Lee Byrne's sin-binning and lost their match against France courtesy of two interception tries.

Hi Jeremy, do you think that the Ospreys were "robbed" of victory in their Heineken Cup quarter-final with Biarritz?
Nigel Langford, Wales

My honest opinion is that they were "robbed" - but my view is they "robbed" themselves.

When sides like Munster and Leinster get ahead, they close out most of their matches, but Ospreys didn't manage to do that after taking the lead at the start of the second half. Once you get ahead in these sorts of games, no matter how small the margin, you have to keep the opposition quiet, especially away from home.

The multi-talented Ospreys have yet to achieve anything special and we have to wait yet another season for them to produce the goods.

Reflecting on another "heroic" win by Munster on Saturday, how would you rate their chances of a third European crown? And wasn't it great to see all the Heineken Cup quarter-finals being played in such a positive manner... please note Martin Johnson et al...
Paul, Munster fan living in Northampton

Munster celebrate
Munster have as good a chance as any team in the semis of the Heineken Cup

No-one who knows about rugby would ever write off Munster, particularly at this stage of the competition, and playing away from home is what will really get them going. Munster have built their reputation in this competition. This is their ninth semi-final appearance, after all.

I give Munster as good a chance as any in this competition, although all the semi-finalists look good, especially Toulouse. The standard of rugby played in the quarter-finals was brilliant compared to a lot of what we have seen this season. Long may it continue.

Jeremy, Leinster were a little fortunate to beat Clermont on Friday but they just seem to have that 'Munster' knack of winning close games now. Is it too much to ask them to go to Toulouse and win?
Dave Malone, Ireland

With the quality in the Leinster side, you could see them going anywhere in the world and winning. Saying that, Leinster could just as easily have lost the game and we all would have said 'same old Leinster'. They didn't and credit to them, but they have to go a long way yet to become the new Munster!

Jeremy, with two French and two Irish teams in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, do you think this represents the real state of play of European rugby?
Frank Gannon, France

I think most sensible people would have tipped France or Ireland to win this year's Six Nations. It's no coincidence that teams from these two countries are dominating the European semi-finals.

Saracens have made a U-turn in their playing style recently. Personally, I'm delighted and will renew my season ticket next season - but why have they changed so late in the season?
Sam, Aylesbury, England

I have heard that coach Brendan Venter had always been planning to let the team play a more rounded style, so what you see Saracens playing now is perhaps what they have been building towards. It's certainly easier on the eye.

Hi Jeremy. As a Bath supporter, I am surprised by the signing of fly-half Sam Vesty from Leicester. I believe we have plenty of talent at 10 in Butch James and Olly Barkley. Can you see any benefit of bringing Vesty to the Rec?
Mike, UK

There will be all sorts of reasons for Vesty's signing, not least the chances of England players being called away from their clubs a lot next season for the autumn internationals, the Six Nations tournament and then the Rugby World Cup build-up.

And let's not forget that in the 2008-09 season Vesty was playing very well for Leicester. If he can recapture that kind of form, he will be a good asset for Bath.

What is your view on the whole Soane Tonga'uiha contract saga? Surely these matters should remain private until such time that the season is over? After all, this is rugby not football!
Craig Boddington, England

I do find it amusing that in this day and age we still get this kind of off-the-field cock-up happening. This would normally have been kept quiet but it appears both parties feel they are in the right. I look forward to reading about the outcome.

Tom Varndell
Varndell has been excellent for Wasps but concerns remain about his defence

Since Tom Varndell has moved from Leicester to Wasps he has had a sensational return to form, not least his hat-trick performance against Gloucester. Do you feel he could break back into the England squad again and possibly gain a starting position?
Bennyboy69, England

There's no doubt Varndell has a lot going for him. With his acceleration and out-and-out speed, his attacking programme is good. But on the flipside, I'm just not convinced his defence is better than his competitors.

Hey Jeremy, I was wondering, following the Masters last week and the apparent passion of rugby players for playing golf, who was the best golf player out of your rugby mates? What do you yourself play off?
Will Warner, Gloucestershire

While I was playing, Gavin Hastings was certainly one of the best golfers. I think his handicap was around four. Since retiring, Matt Dawson has become a good golfer, playing off seven.

That said, I recently played in a charity event in Spain where Jason Leonard won the individual competition with an outrageous score - he claims his handicap is 24!

I have a handicap of 12 but that isn't a fair reflection of my current form to be honest. I'm only playing a few times a year now whereas before I was playing at least twice a week, if not three times a week!

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see also
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
06 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Toulouse 42-16 Stade Francais
11 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Munster 33-19 Northampton
10 Apr 10 |  Munster
Ospreys 'robbed' in Biarritz loss
11 Apr 10 |  Welsh
Biarritz 29-28 Ospreys
10 Apr 10 |  Welsh
Leinster 29-28 Clermont Auvergne
09 Apr 10 |  Leinster
Wasps 42-26 Gloucester
11 Apr 10 |  English
Newcastle 20-55 Blues
11 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Harlequins 46-11 Leeds
10 Apr 10 |  English
Worcester 13-23 London Irish
10 Apr 10 |  English
Sale 19-30 Saracens
09 Apr 10 |  English
Guscott's predictions
09 Apr 10 |  English

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