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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 after the latest round of autumn internationals.

Among the topics making the headlines this week are:

- Scotland bouncing back from their record mauling by New Zealand to beat world champions South Africa

- England backing up an impressive win against Australia with a hard-fought victory over Samoa

- Ireland giving the All Blacks a game but still ending up on the wrong side of a 20-point thumping

- Wales coaches Warren Gatland and Rob Howley publicly criticising the players after their 16-16 draw with Fiji

Hi Jerry, hope you enjoyed your day out in Edinburgh on Saturday! I was delighted with our victory over the Springboks but are we right to be concerned about our lack of creativity and try scorers in the backs? Under coach Andy Robinson, only two Scottish backs have scored tries in the last year. Finlay, Scotland

Parks seals famous Scotland win

Scotland's winning moment over South Africa

Hi Finlay, winning is important at this level, the manner sometimes not so. Scotland defended well and Dan Parks kicked his goals, pretty efficient rugby. There's no reason why the team or the Scottish backs shouldn't be more creative. They have enough ball to work back moves from, they just don't seem to want to try it out. But Gregor Townsend was one of the most creative backs ever and I don't think it'll be long before you start to see Scotland using more backs moves that they must be practising.

South Africa weren't the best on the day. Is this to do with their coach, the players or the long season? Or were Scotland a bit lucky? Ian, UK

Hi Ian, SA have been flirting with losing since their arrival. Ireland nearly came back and won, and they were gifted the victory against Wales. On this tour SA are unsettled, they arrived short of 13 first-choice picks, they took a hiding in the Tri-Nations, two players have been sent home because of drug abuse, it can't get much worse. Scotland made their luck and deserved the win.

After their win over South Africa, what do Scotland need to do to cement this improvement? When will the Scots be able to expect success, rather than hope to avoid defeat? Ian MacGilp, Guildford

Hi Ian, it was so important for Scotland to put up a good fight against SA after the drubbing they got against NZ. The next phase for Scotland has to be the creativeness, utilising their backs and integrating the forwards better during the phase play. Scotland made the odd break during the matches against NZ and SA but the support was poor. Intensity of their play needs to go up several gears along with their fitness and skills.

Jeremy, do you agree with Warren Gatland and Rob Howley publicly criticising their players following Friday's match against Fiji? Ryan Jones made a big error but to have his captaincy stripped in that way is, in my opinion, appalling man-management. Jonathan, Wales

Hi Jeremy, what did you make of Wales' performance on Friday night? Do you think what Gatland and Howley have done, criticising individuals, was the right thing to do? Personally, I'm glad they've said what they have, it might give the players some sort of incentive to go out and play with pride in the future. Bam Bollard, Wales

Hi Jonathan and Bam, personally I don't agree with coaches publically criticising individual players and I don't think Gatland should have publically sacked Ryan Jones; it should all happen within the confines of the team set up. Wales played poorly as a team, drew the game as a team and should be sat down by the coaches as a team and read the riot act. Internal decisions like changing the captain should really take place back at base after you've had time to explain to the individuals why decisions have been made.

Recently, Wales have played some of their best rugby in years for 45 minutes and then some of the worst. Is this a reflection on coaching or the players' mentality? Tom Grey, Wales

Hi Tom, Coaches put in place an environment for players to perform. Preparation is meticulously considered and calculated, strategies worked out and training geared for the match ahead. The players have everything they need and then they have to perform. If players don't or can't step up they have to be dropped, and others who can brought in. I feel coaches can only be blamed for poor selection or not creating the best possible working environment.

Hi Jeremy! I would really like to hear your thoughts regarding the Welsh rugby team. How concerned should Welsh supporters be with the tactics used by Wales and the clear lack of self-belief the players seem to have, especially when playing southern hemisphere teams? Is there any chance of Wales turning things around in time for our opening World Cup fixture against the world champions in Hamilton? Mathew, Wales

Mathew, Wales on paper are a good team; they have talented players like Gethin Jenkins, Bradley Davies, Jamie Roberts, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Mike Phillips, James Hook, George North and Lee Byrne. These guys need to play well to inspire the rest. Wales do struggle when they have injuries, the players replacing the injured don't always perform, which sometimes is understandable. When Wales have a full complement of players to select from that team has the capability of beating anyone; that is what Warren Gatland and his coaches have to instil in that squad.

Hi Jeremy, after enjoying two successive wins in as many weeks for England, I think it is safe to say that they are moving in the right direction. How do you think they will manage against South Africa, who will be furious after losing to Scotland? Tom Howes, UK

Tom Croft of England

Highlights - England 26-13 Samoa

Hi Tom, England should be confident of being able to handle anything SA can throw at them this weekend. I believe if they play at the intensity they managed against Australia they will win. From what we've seen so far of both teams, form suggests an England win. If SA change from just trying to bash teams into submission and enter into a more free flowing game, then England should look out.

Would you keep Matt Banahan at 13 ahead of Mike Tindall? (bearing in mind he scored a try and made another, not to mention he passed and caught more ball than Tindall has since 22nd November 2003). Also do you think that Toby Flood is fast enough as a 10, surely he should be backing up the wings as Carter, Cooper and even Cipriani does? Jonathan Hedges, England

Hi Jonathan, Banahan had a reasonable debut for England playing centre. I would put Tindall back in but if he didn't perform, bring Banahan or Armitage off the bench to replace him. In my view Flood is playing the best rugby of his career. He looks good on the ball, his distribution is good and his kicking excellent. For the first time in his England career, during this autumn series, he looks like the man in charge.

Ireland experienced the same feeling as other All Blacks opponents this year. I remember John Smit saying after the first Tri-Nations loss to the ABs that the margin didn't reflect the closeness of the game. How do the ABs do it? It seems they've taken the game to another level whereby it's not about who has the most territory or possession but who can take their chances - what do you think? Dennis, UK

Hi Dennis; You're right, the ABs have taken the game to the next level and it's brilliant to watch. A lot of teams have concentrated on the conditioning of their players, specifically making them stronger. In my view the ABs have concentrated on their forwards, specifically on their skills with the ball in hand. The NZ forwards are nearly as good with the ball in hand in the loose as their own three-quarters, it's unbelievable. I watched the game against Ireland and was almost left open-mouthed at the running, handling and decision-making of the AB forwards in open play. Against Wales, just watch the precision of the backs' passing, it's all in front - making players run onto the ball. Watch the AB forwards integrating with their backs as if that's where they play; it's fantastic to watch. Also, watch what happens when the ABs turn a ball over, it's moved very quickly into space and they're off attacking, it's incredibly smart rugby.

Hi Jerry; Against Wales Dan Carter is poised to become the highest points scorer in history and a win will lift New Zealand to 354 wins from 472, a 75% winning record in Test match rugby. What is it about the All Blacks that enables them to produce this kind of performance year after year, without having to "rebuild" like England have had to? Richard Crawford, UK

Hi Richard, I would say it's all down to the NZ rugby system of coaching all the youngsters in the same way. Get them young, coach them the basics well and move on from there. NZ rugby is played the same way by all schools and through all their representative age groups. Their technique and skill levels are superior to most. It's their national sport and even though the population is relatively small they have a never-ending conveyor belt of talent in all positions. It also helps that a lot of South Sea Islanders go to school in NZ and qualify to play for the ABs.

Arguably Dan Carter has been instrumental in all of the All Blacks victories this year. Would you agree though that Graham Henry is running a not insignificant risk by not giving another fly-half sufficient international game time ahead of next year's World Cup? If DC should get injured, how do you think that would affect their chances of winning the cup?Bart, France

Hi Bart, I agree Henry is running that risk but he's willing to take it. NZ without Carter are more beatable without him, that's for sure!

Do you think the Six Nations teams give the All Blacks too much respect? England and Ireland, I felt, blew or turned down big scoring chances and Scotland bounced back to beat the Boks the week after an All Blacks thumping. Adam Williams, New Zealand

Hi Adam, on some occasions I agree but most of the time the ABs are the better team. We have to add into the equation that we don't play them as regularly as Australia and South Africa do, which doesn't help.

Hi Jeremy - what does Saturday's score say about England? I am under no impression that any of the southern big three would have squandered those try-scoring chances we had. Will this lack of a clinical edge come back to haunt us in the Six Nations and World Cup? Or do you think we'll get over it and start finishing off our well-made moves and turn into real world beaters? Sam, England

Hi Sam, in the last four games England have played so much better than most of us expected, and to think this team could become world beaters is getting ahead of ourselves. The England side is just starting to understand what it's good at and what it needs to improve. The clinical edge will come with more games with the same team-mates alongside. We saw the effects of four team changes against Samoa.

Hi Jeremy, what is your opinion on England open-side flanker Hendre Fourie? Joshua, England

Hi Joshua, Fourie is dependable; he will carry, tackle and run into a brick wall if you ask him. I don't believe he's going to get 50 caps playing open-side for England but he's a solid consistent performer, what you see is what you get!

Jeremy, after watching Mathew Tait set the World Cup final on fire, I have heard nothing of him this year. Where has he gone and what happened to him being "the future of English rugby"? Jacques Walton, South Africa

Hi Jeremy, there has been talk recently of Tindall's career coming to an end and other outside centres coming through. But I noticed one key player who you missed out - Mathew Tait. The guy is quality, do you think he can claim the 13 jersey? Ben, Harrogate, England

Hi Jacques and Ben; After the 2007 World Cup final I truly believed Tait was a player that England could build a team or backline around. He's had a few opportunities since then but not been consistently good in a poor performing team. I hope he finds his way back.

After watching Steve Thompson's "brilliant" clearance kick on Saturday, I was wondering what's the funniest example of somebody playing out of position in a match you have witnessed? Ali, UK

Hi Ali, in the old days with fewer substitutes than there are today, sometimes someone from the second row had to move up to the front row because of injury. In one Bath game poor old Nigel Redman had to move up, and as you might imagine, in every subsequent scrum he had a living nightmare. Thankfully he wasn't injured.

What was going on in the studio post-Scotland-South Africa when you appeared to make a very strange face at Andy Nicol? Rab, UK

Hi Rab, you're the first person to mention this… I was eating a toffee and was trying to finish it before the cameras came back into the studio; needless to say I didn't manage to!!!

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.

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see also
Scotland 21-17 South Africa
20 Nov 10 |  Scottish
England 26-13 Samoa
20 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Wales 16-16 Fiji
19 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 18-38 New Zealand
20 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union

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