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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

Former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott answers more of your questions as the season reaches its climax.

He discusses:

- The reasons for France's domination of European rugby this season, both internationally and at club level;

- Olly Barkley's chances of regaining the England number 12 shirt, and whether England's incumbent inside centre Riki Flutey can rediscover his form after injury;

- Who should start for Australia at fly-half given Quade Cooper's fine form for Queensland Reds this season;

- And find out what injury kept Jerry sidelined for eight months and led him to wonder if he would ever play again.

If you have any questions for Jerry, please use the postform on this page. He will answer as many as possible next week, but unfortunately not every question submitted can be used. The answers to this week's questions are below.


How much do you feel we can read into France's domination of European rugby this season?
Gareth O'Hagan, Ireland

Biarritz captain Imanol Harinordoquy, complete with faceguard to protect his broken nose, at the heart of a maul on Sunday
Masked man Harinordoquy helped Biarritz reach the Heineken Cup final

Why are there no Guinness Premiership clubs in either of the European Cup finals?
Frazer, France

Gareth and Frazer, I believe the French clubs and the national team have done so well this season because they have rested and conditioned their players in better fashion than their competitors.

I also believe that, for the first time in a long while, the French players have got it right psychologically, something which has been difficult for them to achieve in years gone by. Mentally, the French have been known to lose the plot in the past, but now they seem to be able to dig in and grind through games without giving up.

There is no doubt whatsoever that not having a salary cap has helped French teams. They can have more quality players on their playing rosters, enabling them to rest and rotate. This keeps their best players fresh for the big games.

As for the Guinness Premiership, I think some of the teams have got their conditioning of players completely wrong. Look how strongly the likes of Bath and Saracens are ending the season and contrast that with how London Irish have fallen away.

But it is so difficult for English clubs to keep their players fresh because there is a massive fight for the top four play-off places, European qualification etc.

Jeremy, with Olly Barkley playing so well for Bath at inside centre, do you believe he'll start for England in the summer Tests?
Simon Cope, Exeter

Simon, there is no doubt that Barkley is playing great rugby at the moment and must be in with a good shout of starting at inside centre on tour. England have struggled to find the right combinations at 10, 12 and 13 because of poor performances and injuries. I would like to see all players in those positions fit and well, and putting in good performances that make the selectors' jobs difficult. At the present time, Barkley's competition for the England 12 shirt would be Brad Barritt, who is playing very well for Sarries.

Hi Jeremy, do you really think that Riki Flutey can get back into the swing of things at London Wasps for next season?
John, Ireland

John, Flutey is a class act when he is fully fit, and that is what Wasps have to ensure he is before the start of next season. I believe Flutey and Dom Waldouck will be a very strong centre partnership for Wasps next season.

Criticism of the Cardiff Blues came from all quarters at the start of the season, but shouldn't they be hailed as the most consistent performers in Wales?
Mike Smart, Wales

Mike, winning the big games is what playing competitive sport is all about. Think about where Cardiff were this time last season. They were playing brilliant rugby and were very unlucky to go out of the Heineken Cup on a penalty shoot-out. This season, they have fallen below expectations but have the opportunity of winning silverware again after reaching the final of the European Challenge Cup, although it is not the trophy they were aiming for. Scotland fly-half Dan Parks should help the Blues perform consistently when he arrives next season.

Jerry, do you think Mike Brewer will be able to attract big-name players to Sale?
Sam, England

Sam, money and the club's ambition, combined with Brewer's persuasive powers, will help to attract the quality players needed at Sale. The test for Brewer will be to understand the Premiership's requirements. He needs to build a team to compete in the league and getting into the top four has to be his priority.

Jerry, as a die-hard Munster fan I just can't see what went wrong?! Credit to Biarritz for a gutsy performance but we had the players and the ability to put the game away.
Chris, England

Chris, it wasn't a surprise result for the neutral. Biarritz have a strong team with an excellent kicker. Give Dimitri Yachvili enough opportunities and he will punish you - and that's what he did. Munster failed to capitalise on early dominance up front. At this level, if you can't turn pressure into points the opposition always have hope.

What are your thoughts on Lawrence Dallaglio's call for Tom Rees as England captain?
Mike

Wasps' Tom Rees tackles Darren Allinson of the Cardiff Blues
Wasps flanker Rees needs to show he is England's best open-side

Jeremy, who do you think should captain England to Australia over the summer following Dallaglio's pick of Rees? And do you think Phil Dowson is a future captain in the making?
Harry, England

Mike and Harry, Lawrence is always pushing any Wasps player but to call for Rees to be England captain is stretching it. I would let Rees go on tour but, after his injury lay-off, he needs to prove once more that he is good enough to be selected before even thinking about him being captain. I thought Mike Tindall's performance against France was superb and his good form has continued with Gloucester. I would be inclined to pick him as captain, albeit only for this tour.

Dowson's form this season has been very good and I think he deserves a place on tour but I wouldn't make him captain. With only a year to go before the World Cup, England need to re-group and perform well. If they do that, then a natural captain should materialise during those performances.

Jeremy, I've loved watching the Super 14 this year for one reason alone and that is the performances of Quade Cooper. But how do you think the Australian backline should line up? Will Genia will surely start at nine, but which two do you pick out of Matt Giteau, Berrick Barnes and Cooper at 10 and 12?
Adam Howard, England

Adam, after watching the Reds v Brumbies at the weekend, I think Giteau is still the number one fly-half for Australia. Cooper is a great attacking talent with ball in hand but still has to learn the tactical side of international rugby, particularly kicking. Let's see how he does during the Tri-Nations. I'm pretty sure he will be selected at 12 or 13.

Hi Jeremy, I was wondering what your thoughts were on Butch James's contribution to Bath this season, specifically place kicking?
Jonathan, Wales

Jonathan, James's contribution to Bath has been immense since his arrival at the club, even taking into account his time off for injuries. He plays like a world champion, with that champion's mentality, and I don't think missing penalty kicks affected him. Yes, sometimes it was the difference for the team, but it didn't change the way he played.

Given Toulon's meteoric rise in fortunes, is there anything the likes of Bristol, Leeds and Worcester can learn from their success?
Bart Hulley, France

Bart, Toulon have spent a lot of money over the last few seasons, bringing the best players from around the world to play for the club. Money doesn't always work but with Toulon it seems to be doing the job at the moment. Let's see how they fare in next year's Heineken Cup when you need to dig deep with good mates next to you. Then we will see if the money has done the real job. I'm not sure how much clubs like Leeds, Worcester and Bristol can learn from Toulon because all clubs have a different culture. Money would certainly help but it's how you spend it that counts!

Hi Jerry, given the sad demise of Worcester this season, what does this say about the influence of the coach? And looking at this particular coach, what does it say about how much input he really had into the Welsh Grand Slam success of 2005?
Dave, UK

Dave, sometimes a plan doesn't work out and a coach just doesn't gel with his players. They don't get him and he doesn't get them. The question has always been asked and will continue to be asked, what makes a good team tick? Is it the players or the coach? For me, if you have quality players, the coaching becomes slightly easier. You have to be more of a psychologist with the better players and more of a coach with the less talented. I think Ruddock worked with Wales because he had good quality players that he knew very well. Why he couldn't transfer his abilities successfully to Worcester I really don't know. At least Ruddock did the decent thing and resigned. He is clearly a proud man.

Jeremy, I'm about to have three ligaments in my knee reconstructed after an injury I suffered last season. Did you ever have any injuries that made you consider giving up your playing career?
Chris C, England

Chris, firstly good luck with the operation and rehab. I hope everything works out well for you. I had a serious pelvis injury in 1994. It kept me out of the game for eight months. While the physio and surgeons couldn't quite work out what was wrong with me, once or twice I did wonder whether I would play again. Once they knew what was wrong, I got the required treatment and then it was just a question of time.



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see also
Biarritz 18-7 Munster
02 May 10 |  Munster
Blues bid for Welsh Euro history
02 May 10 |  Cardiff Blues
Toulouse 26-16 Leinster
01 May 10 |  Leinster
Wasps hit by Robinson retirement
01 May 10 |  London Wasps
Wasps 15-18 Cardiff Blues
01 May 10 |  Rugby Union
Connacht 12-19 Toulon
30 Apr 10 |  Connacht
Cockbain goes in Sharks overhaul
30 Apr 10 |  Sale
Fresh Achilles blow for Williams
30 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Brewer replaces Robinson at Sale
28 Apr 10 |  Sale
Ruddock resigns as Worcester boss
28 Apr 10 |  Worcester
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
28 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
19 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union
Guscott's predictions
18 Apr 10 |  English
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
14 Apr 10 |  Rugby Union


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