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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

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

It's crunch time as the rugby union season reaches its climax, and former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott is on hand to answer your questions.

Some of the things Jerry discusses this week are:

- Who makes his Premiership team of the year, and which player has impressed him most

- The subjectivity of selection, and whether or not the likes of Alex Goode and Brad Barritt are unlucky not to make the trip down under with England

- The importance of a decent scrum, as demonstrated by Leicester against Bath in the Premiership semi-final

- The eloquence, or otherwise, of players in post-match interviews

- And just how impressed he is by Francois Steyn's 60m drop-goal for Racing Metro against Clermont Auvergne in the Top 14 play-offs

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. This week's answers appear below.


Who would be your Premiership XV for the season based on club form, regardless of nationality? Being a Northampton supporter I end up with a lot of Saints, but how would yours stack up?
Michael, England

Ben Youngs makes a break for Leicester
Youngs is only 20 but 'has an old head on young shoulders'

Michael, my team would be: 15 Ben Foden; 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Matt Banahan; 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Soane Tonga'uiha, 2 Shalk Brits, 3 Dan Cole, 4, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Phil Dowson, 7 Steffon Armitage, 8 Luke Watson.

For what it's worth, Leicester scrum-half Youngs would be my Premiership player of the year. Youngs is only 20 but he has an old head on young shoulders and he's totally selfless.

What do you think of the England squad having no Saracens players in it, especially now they are in the Premiership final?
Andrew Marshall, England

Coming from a complete neutral who watched the first semi-final between Sarries and Northampton, can you please tell me how Alex Goode isn't going on the tour of Australasia with England. He was sensational and the outstanding player on the pitch! Explain!
Stephen Thomas, Sale, Manchester

Jeremy, now that Saracens have shown they can play some sublime rugby and with Goode and Brad Barritt instrumental in their win on Sunday, do you think the England selectors have got it wrong?
Anthony Blake, UK

Andrew, Stephen and Anthony, Martin Johnson's selections aren't always going to please everyone and not including Goode or Barritt in the main touring party to Australasia has surprised many Saracens fans. But MJ has included nine uncapped players to tour down under so he can't really be accused of not having included new talent to this squad.

Barritt and Goode are extremely unfortunate but there are other players who think they are unlucky not to be included as well. I personally would have included Barritt instead of Shane Geraghty or Charlie Hodgson.

As a proud Northampton fan, I am bitterly disappointed at our semi-final loss to Saracens. But in the past few games, Saints have just been half a second too slow, which I believe is because they're all just shattered after a hard season.

Being the second most active side in Europe is tiring enough, but because of the salary cap, teams just can't afford to rotate teams as much as the likes of Toulouse or Munster. I think that the salary cap should not only be raised to improve the quality of English rugby, but for the welfare of the players too, what do you think?
Gregor Lawrence, Northampton, England

Do you think that Northampton's chasing of a treble ultimately cost them the chance to play in the Premiership final as they seemed fatigued near the end of the match?
Luke, Northern Ireland

Gregor and Luke, I do believe the salary cap should be raised to at least £5m or £6m to allow Premiership teams to rotate and rest players when necessary - there is no doubt that French clubs have a clear advantage in that area.

But I don't buy into Gregor's thoughts on Northampton's players being too tired. Firstly they do have a big enough squad to rotate players - when they played Bath they made 12 changes, for instance. Secondly, I believe Sarries made the Northampton players look sluggish by the pace they played at. Adrenaline and the prospect of being champions should have kept the Saints boys going.

Hi Jeremy, after seeing Bath prop David Flatman getting destroyed by first Leicester's Martin Castrogiovanni and then Dan Cole, it demonstrated how important the scrummage is in the English club game. However, watching Super 14 in recent weeks it has been apparent that most of the southern hemisphere view it as just another way to re-start the game. Do you think that we will see the effect of those differing philosophies during England's summer tour?
Jacob Poulton, Chichester, UK

Leicester tight-head prop Dan Cole
Can Leicester tight-head Cole make an impression on the summer tour?

Poults, I agree that Leicester certainly base a good amount of their game plan on wearing teams down in the scrummage and that doesn't appear to be the case for a lot of Super 14 teams. There are always exceptions to the rule and the Bulls are that exception - they are a very set-piece orientated team and place a high value on scrummaging.

The Australians are learning to scrummage, as they showed on tour last autumn. Teams, and certainly national teams, are again realising how important the scrum is. I don't expect England to dominate the Australian scrum on the summer tour because the English scrum isn't good enough and the Australians have got much better.

Jerry, do you feel somewhat frustrated when you watch a game such as Bath v Leicester where Bath played some great rugby and Leicester did what they always do… BORE ME TO DEATH. Fair play to Leicester, they won, but would it hurt to actually bring the backline in a bit?
Luke, England

Luke, Leicester did what they had to do to win a semi-final and, yes, they deserved that win because they were more powerful in general play than Bath, particularly at the breakdown. I'm a fan of skilful play, whether it be technical or pure flair, and winning is what it's all about. You do whatever it takes within the laws of the game.

As a front row forward and now referee, I am as frustrated as everyone else about reset scrums. My idea to solve this would be to have some sort of binding handle on the props' shirts (like on scrum machines or tackle shields). If the prop was not bound on it would be obvious who the penalty should be to, and if they do bind on, scrums should be higher and more stable. What do you think?
Richard Davies, UK

Richard, as you know I am an expert in this particular area of the game...! I'm sure the shirt makers could adapt a prop's shirt to allow them to bind properly rather that scratching around to get a grip on a skin-tight shirt?!

I agree that something has to be done very quickly to stop the resetting of scrums, it's ruining the game as a spectacle.

Hi Jeremy, do you think the Dragons players can feel hard done by now that Wales' summer squad has been announced? I feel Warren Gatland has selected a strong squad, with maybe one or two bizarre selections (Rob McCusker ahead of Josh Turnbull) but otherwise I'm fairly pleased. Also, how do you feel Wales will cope with playing New Zealand in New Zealand? I'm sure we'll be in the match, but I can see NZ winning the series 2-0. Thanks!
Bam Bollard, Wales

Hi Bam, selection is always going to be fairly contentious depending on your loyalties but believe me - a national coach picks what he feels is his best squad, because if they don't perform he's in danger of losing his job. Wales probably will lose both Test matches but for their sake I hope they push them close.

Justin Marshall on the attack for Saracens
Saracens scrum-half Marshall won 81 caps for New Zealand

In light of Justin Marshall's retirement, who were the best scrum-halves you played with and against at club or international level?
Dave, Belfast, NI

Dave, I've played with and against some seriously talented scrum-halves. The pick of the bunch (in no particular order) would be: Steve Knight (Bath Colts), Joost van der Westhuizen (South Africa), George Gregan (Australia), Richard Hill (England), Kyran Bracken (England), Matt Dawson (England), Nick Farr-Jones (Australia) and Robert Jones (Wales) to name just a few.

Hi Jerry, I was wondering what Phil Dowson has to do to get into the England set-up. As a Newcastle Falcons fan I saw him perform consistently and since his move to Northampton he seems to have kicked on again. What are your views on this matter? Phill, England

Jeremy, would be more than interested your views on the failure to include pace and footballing ability in the England summer squad. Specifically, the inclusion of Harlequins number eight Nick Easter and the exclusion of Dowson and Wasps flanker Tom Rees defies belief. What is wrong with the selection mindset?
Paul, UK

I believe Dowson deserves a place in the touring party going to Australia but MJ just isn't having any of it. If he continues to play next season as he has this season he can't be ignored any longer!

As for Rees, Johnson obviously had doubts about his fitness and the fact that he has subsequently decided to pull out of the Saxons tour to concentrate on strengthening his shoulder suggests that the England boss was right. Easter is inconsistent in performance for England but MJ believes in him. Selection is so subjective, particularly when a team isn't performing well, like England at the moment.

Ronan O'Gara has always been the one player to provide insightful and often brutally honest opinions during TV interviews. Do you think that too many players these days are "media savvy" and that we only hear TV-friendly interviews and nothing relevant any more?
David McCormack, Ireland

Munster and Irealand fly-half Ronan O'Gara
O'Gara tends to speak his mind when faced with a microphone

David, some players just struggle to give insightful and honest appraisals of a game they've just played in and it happens for many reasons - the fear of upsetting management, team-mates or the opposition, or anxiety about sounding a bit stupid. It's also very important that the interviewer asks the right questions.

Thankfully there are a good few players still playing that talk straight and Ronan is certainly one of those players.

For the last two or three seasons, people have claimed that Munster are an old team who are past their best, yet they always seemed to prove people wrong. This season, however, they again lost in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup, and finished fourth in the league before losing in the play-off. Do you think time has finally caught up with them?
Richard, Wales

Richard, a team goes through highs and lows and performing to a very high level time after time is hard to do. I remember watching the Perpignan v Munster match earlier this season when many had written them off, and after that game I believed they were more than capable of winning the competition. I don't think time has finally caught up with Munster but they could possibly do with some new blood coming through.

Hi Jerry, have you managed to see Francois Steyn's 60m drop-goal for Racing Metro against Clermont? It's incredible! What is the single most amazing piece of skill you've seen on the rugby field?
Dave Morgan, Wales

Dave, I've just seen the Steyn drop-goal and it was amazing, he could have got it over from another 15 yards back! I have witnessed many moments of skill over the years but I did particularly enjoy David Campese's blind pass behind and over his shoulder to Tim Horan to score a try in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in 1991.



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see also
Leicester 15-6 Bath
16 May 10 |  English
Northampton 19-21 Saracens
16 May 10 |  English
Leinster 16-6 Munster
15 May 10 |  Leinster
Ospreys 20-5 Glasgow Warriors
14 May 10 |  Welsh
Powell back for Wales' June Tests
16 May 10 |  Welsh
Kay to leave Leicester in summer
15 May 10 |  Leicester
England tour pay row is settled
21 May 10 |  Rugby Union
Nine players set to leave Quins
12 May 10 |  Harlequins
Scrum-half Marshall quits rugby
12 May 10 |  Saracens
England pick nine untried players
11 May 10 |  English


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