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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 is back to answer your questions.

This week Jerry discusses:

- His England XV for Saturday's Test against New Zealand

- England's tactics against the number one side in the world

- Northampton's giant Tongan prop Soane Tonga'uiha

- Exeter's chances of being relegated from the Premiership

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.


Delon Armitage takes on Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens
Armitage is back in form after a difficult time last season

Hi Jeremy, what would be your starting XV for England against the All Blacks?
Elliot, England

Hi Elliott, this would be my starting line-up: Foden; Ashton, Tindall, Hape, Armitage; Flood, Youngs; Easter, Moody, Croft, Palmer, Lawes, Sheridan, Thompson, Cole.

England team to face New Zealand

Hi Jerry! I read Nick Easter's interview in the Evening Standard the other day where he was quoted saying half a dozen of the present England team could get into the All Blacks side! Is he on planet cuckoo?!!!! On present form I can only see Ben Youngs in place of Jimmy Cowan or Piri Weepu, and Ben Foden at a push on the bench.

What are your thoughts on this and, as is always the case in every guilty sportsman's defence, was he misquoted? Also, what do you make of the 'dead rubber' Bledisloe Cup game in Hong Kong? Is James O'Connor going to be the new world superstar? Regards, Bhu
Bhu Gurung, London, UK

Hi Bhu, I believe the likes of Youngs, Cole, Lawes, Palmer and Thompson would challenge for an All Black shirt. I don't think the All Black second rows are anything special, the same applies to the props, and Youngs is fast proving he's going to be world class. Put these players in the All Blacks and you really would see how good they are! O'Connor has shown in his short career that he has great skills and composure.

There is nothing better than watching a young player playing with ambition and skill. He will generally make the right decisions when he gets the ball and is always looking to take on an opponent. Also, I don't believe any game between the Wallabies and the All Blacks is ever a dead rubber, there's too much pride at stake!

Dear Jerry, do you think that England should aim to beat the All Blacks at their own game, by playing in an expansive, fast-paced style, or do what England have always done best - keeping it tight and using our powerful forwards in rolling mauls?
Grahame Fischer, England

Hi Grahame, I believe England should play the way that suits them best. We saw against Australia in the summer that if they retain the ball and work through some phases they are difficult to play against. I do feel they should not play too much rugby in their own half. New Zealand really do focus on big hits to turn the ball over.

England have a habit of letting lone runners go into contact, if they do that they will concede far too many turnovers and ultimately get beaten. England need to play the same way against NZ as they did against the Aussies, if they do I believe we will see a great game.

After watching the rugby served up by the New Zealand and Australia backlines on Saturday, what realistic expectation do you have for the probable England axis of Toby Flood, Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall? Any line breaks??
Charlie, England

Shontayne Hape off-loads in England training on Wednesday
England need to exploit Hape's ability to offload in narrow channels

Jeremy, since 2003 England have struggled to find a settled and effective centre partnership, so with the World Cup approaching which partnership would you try to establish in the autumn internationals? Is Hape too cumbersome to play with Tindall?
Benjamin Norris, England

Hi Charlie and Benjamin, to get the best out of Hape you have to give him options other than a crash ball. England should exploit the skills he's developed from his days in rugby league. Get him to run hard but not just into players, and also try to play off him, he has great off-loading ability. I would keep the Hape/Tindall partnership but attack coach Brian Smith needs to work harder to get these guys to gel and that can only be done in training.

There will be line breaks if England execute their moves well. Ma'a Nonu has a habit of switching off, as we saw when Adam Ashley-Cooper went flying through to score on Saturday. Whatever moves England use they need to be careful because the All Blacks are great students of the game and Carter, in particular, likes the odd chance to read the play and intercept.

Dear Jeremy, you have been hailing Ben Youngs as the best northern hemisphere scrum-half you have seen in a long time and I don't disagree, especially after his try and overall performance against Scarlets. What do you think does he need to become a "great" scrum-half, ie one who will be remembered? What are his best attributes?
Pablo, Colombia

Hi Pablo, Youngs just needs to keep developing as he is and carry on producing consistent performances. He makes very few poor decisions, he makes it to most of the breakdowns and whizzes out his pass, and when there's space he makes use of it. He will become a great if England as a team get better because he needs support, he can't do it all on his own.

Hi Jerry, just what does London Irish lock Nick Kennedy have to do to break back into the England squad? After being omitted over the last year after being arguably the standout performer in a dire Six Nations and consistently one of the best line-out locks in the Premiership, he seems to be permanently overlooked by Martin Johnson. What are your thoughts?
Ian Hodgson, Oxon, UK

Hi Ian, unfortunately for Kennedy he just doesn't fit into Martin Johnson's idea of what an England lock should be. In general MJ likes locks to be sizeable, hard hitting ball carriers and Kennedy doesn't fit those criteria. If and when MJ isn't England head coach Kennedy will get his chance.

Do you think that Paul Turner's days at the Dragons are numbered given their poor start to the season, or do you think that the lack of resources and money at Rodney Parade prove that Welsh rugby cannot actually sustain four regions?
Rhian, Wales

Hi Rhian, I believe Turner is doing a good job given the Dragons' resources. They had a reasonably good showing in last season's Magners League, qualifying outright for Europe. They had a good performance to win against the Ospreys at the weekend, albeit a weakened Ospreys, but a win is a win, and they are still in touch with a play-off place.

Northampton and Tonga prop Soane Tonga'uiha
The man they call 'Tiny' is a mighty presence for Saints and Tonga

After watching another dominant display by Tonga prop Soane Tonga'uiha for Northampton against Newcastle, I wonder whether Jeremy believes there is an international side on the planet that wouldn't have him in their starting fifteen?
Robin, UK

Hi Robin, I can't imagine too many international teams not picking him. His performances are consistently brilliant; he is the benchmark for all props.

Was it right to go back to the old flame of Charlie Hodgson to cover the injured Jonny Wilkinson? Or was this an opportunity to bring in some shining young lights like Ryan Lamb or Alex Goode?
Dominic Macdonald, England

Jerry, in light of the Wilkinson injury and current form, do you think there may be the opportunity to bring Ryan Lamb into the senior England set-up. He must at least be an option to sit on the bench and provide a bit of extra craft? Cheers.
Wrenchy, England

Hi Dominic and Wrenchy, MJ is nothing but consistent and when it comes to experience over inexperience, he will pretty much go for experience. If Hodgson gets on against New Zealand look out for Nonu running down his channel, it won't make pretty viewing for England supporters. Goode's chance will come but not for another year, he needs to prove himself in the Premiership. Lamb is a bit inconsistent and needs to prove over a whole season he's up to it.

Hi Jeremy, with Exeter Chiefs making life hard for London Irish and now toppling Saracens at home, do you think this is more an indication of how Saracens have stalled, or how much hard work Rob Baxter and the players have put into making this team hard to beat? Do you think that in a couple of years' time the likes of Tom Johnson, James Phillips and Luke Arscott may even by knocking on the door for international recognition?
Duncan, England

Jeremy, many thanks for your predictions thus far, which on the whole have been pretty accurate. However, given the current performances of Exeter Chiefs, who have just joined the Aviva Premiership, do you think it's fair for the club and the pundits to revise their focus from being in a fight to avoid relegation, to aiming for a mid-table finish to the season?
Bruce Harvey, England

Hi Duncan and Bruce, even though I have consistently picked Exeter to lose their matches I'm pleased for all connected with the Chiefs that they are winning. It's great to see a new team proving themselves in this division and I will say now they won't get relegated. As for the Chiefs players you mention getting international recognition, I think that's going to be harder.

Hi Jeremy, what do you think are the problems behind the demise of Bristol Rugby, who appear to be heading for National League One, God forbid?
Stephen Evans, England

Hi Stephen, I haven't seen Bristol yet this season but it appears they haven't got over losing to Exeter in the play-off final last season. I also read about off-field resources not being great and the club's backers are looking for more financial help. It never helps a playing squad when there are off-the-field doubts constantly being talked about.

You can follow Jerry on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JeremyGuscott



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see also
Prop Sheridan returns for England
02 Nov 10 |  English
London Irish 39-26 Sale
31 Oct 10 |  English
Ospreys 16-21 Dragons
30 Oct 10 |  Welsh
Wilkinson to miss November Tests
29 Oct 10 |  English
Henson must deliver, says Gatland
29 Oct 10 |  Saracens


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