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Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A

Jeremy Guscott
BBC pundit Guscott is on hand to tackle your queries throughout the season

Former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott is back to answer your questions.

Among the topics discussed by Jeremy this week are:

- England's impressive form and their prospects for the next match against France

- Chris Ashton's exuberant try-scoring methods

- The physical make-up of Ireland's backline

- Whether lessening the rewards for penalties would make for more attractive rugby

- The possibility of an England recall for Danny Cipriani


When is Declan Kidney going to realise that Rory Best is not good enough to play in the big occasions? Time after time he makes an error or throws a bad line-out ball at the crucial moment in a game!
Peter, Ireland

Hi Peter, DK must be under a bit of pressure after the autumn performances followed by a disappointing showing against the Italians and now the loss against France. Hookers have their bad days and it's not always their fault if the line-out doesn't go well. Ireland lost three out of their 10 line-outs and France two out eight so it was a bad day for both line-outs. I suspect Rory will remain in the team.

Chris Ashton and Nick Easter

Highlights - England 59-13 Italy

I was hugely impressed with England's performance against Italy although I would still have Olly Barkley in the centre. If they are to beat the French in a fortnight, in which areas do you think they have the upper hand? I know the French do not always travel well, however, if they are on top of their game it should be an absolute cracker.
Andy Tanner, England

Hi Andy, on current form England play better in most areas of the game. I suspect France believe they have the edge in the scrums. England are high on confidence and if Ben Youngs and Toby Flood can be given the same kind of ball against the French as they have had in the first two games I would expect England to control the game. I agree it will be a cracking game.

What is it that makes rugby league players such an attacking force in union? Are they just naturally better at rugby or coached differently?
Clarence James-Smith, England

Hi Clarence, there have been some successes with league players switching codes in the UK and we have seen probably the best in Jason Robinson in terms of attack. Chris Ashton is a totally different player to Robinson. Ashton's great ability is to track and read his own players, attacking and supporting them. Robinson had speed, step and acceleration that beat most defenders. I do think there are equally gifted rugby union players, such as Shane Williams and Ben Foden.

England wing Chris Ashton celebrates scoring against Italy
Should Ashton be told to tone down his acrobatic celebrations?

Although I am proud of England and Chris Ashton's outstanding performance, I am unhappy with the manner in which he celebrates his try scoring. My son plays for Bishop's Stortford U13's and in his match on Sunday morning against local rivals Hertford, one of our players ran in a try in from 40 metres and tried to emulate Chris Ashton. The try was disallowed for not grounding the ball properly. I would like to let Martin Johnson and professional players realise the effect lack of discipline has on younger players. I also feel it is disrespectful to the opposition. I don't want to see our game slip to the moral depths of football. I feel rugby helps teach children important standards for everything in life ahead.
Stephen Thomas, UK

Hi Stephen. Initially, I thought Ashton raising his hand, pointing to the sky and swallow diving was ok. The more I hear about the effect it is having on grassroots rugby, the more I agree with you - and many others - that he should stop it and re-think. In the interest of sportsmanship I do believe he should stop the arm raising and finger pointing. It's entirely up to him if he wants to continue the swallow diving. In certain circumstances, say, scoring the winning try in a tight game or scoring a brilliant try in any game then after scoring celebrate as you like. It is a contentious subject, there are many supporters of the hand aloft and finger pointing, it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Simple question: how much credit do the England coaching staff deserve for the team's current form? I seem to remember Matt Dawson (at least, I think it was him) saying that some of them couldn't coach international rugby because they'd never played it. So I guess he was wrong on that one.
Sean, Bath

Hi Sean, I believe any coaches at any club are responsible for the performances of their teams. They coach them and select the team. If it's not working change the team, or expect some stick. Eighteen months ago the England coaching set up deserved the criticism that was thrown at them. After the first two results for England in the Six Nations, the coaches deserve praise for the team they coach and select. If they lose to France playing poorly, making enforced errors then expect the likes of Dawson, me and others to criticise the performance and speak about the coaches.

Do you think Ireland's back line was physically too small to cope with the French? Given the amount of errors we coughed up we had to endure multiple counter-attacks and the size difference took its toll, albeit the decisive try coming from Aurèlien Rougerie crashing through from a set-piece. Do you think there's a case for Northampton's James Downey to be given a run at 12?
Stephen McGovern, Ireland

Hi Stephen, I entirely agree that Downey should be picked ahead of Gordon D'Arcy, David Wallace and any others. Look how well Brian O'Driscoll played alongside a big inside centre on the Lions tour. Yes D'Arcy missed a sitter of a tackle but that happens very rarely. Downey deserves his place on performances and I can't believe DK hasn't whisked him into the squad.

Do you think they should lower the amount of points for a penalty to two as it may encourage more attacking game play which the crowd likes to see? For example, in the Ireland game it meant that despite playing more attacking rugby they still lost which, with the three tries they scored, is unfair.
Hugh Jeffery, England

Hi Hugh, I'm happy with the points system as it stands. Teams need to be punished for infringements. The fact that Ireland scored three tries to one doesn't mean they deserved to win the game. Ireland made continued mistakes at the tackle and got penalised for it. People have been asking for the three-point drop goal to be lessened to one point. That wouldn't have helped Ireland against Italy.

Maxime Medard scores for France

Highlights - Ireland 22-25 France

Question about the France team. France are allowing opponents to score so many tries. Could you tell me where the weakest link is in the France defence and how they can reduce conceded tries?
Sarunas, Lithuania

Hi Sarunas, my colleague Keith Wood pointed out that France, against Ireland, looked weak around the fringes of the breakdown. Two of Ireland's tries were scored close to the breakdown. I would have thought Marc Lièvremont will be pointing that out to his players in the next get-together.

Can you explain why Lee Byrne's technique of jumping for the ball with his leg raised and his spikes leading the way is not 'dangerous play'? I've seen him injure more than one player in this way over the last few years, and I do not understand why it is allowed. I appreciate it makes oncoming players reluctant to compete legitimately for the ball, but it seems to me to be unnecessary and intentionally hazardous.
Rob Daykin, England

Hi Rob, looking at the incident again you probably have a point that any full-back leading with the boot should be penalised. In Hugo Southwell's case I didn't think he ever looked as though he was going to challenge correctly. It looked as though he had over-run the ball and he took his eye off it and ran blind into the studs of Byrne. Had Byrne not led with his boot I think Southwell would have ran into the legs of Byrne and flipped him dangerously to the ground. You make a very good point about the leading boot of players catching the high ball, refs should take note.

Shane Williams

Highlights - Scotland 6-24 Wales

After the performance in Paris, and defeats of Ireland, Argentina (twice) and South Africa, how do you explain Scotland's dismal display against Wales? Good players (if they are good players) don't become bad players overnight, so why were they so bad? Have they started to believe their own press? Did they underestimate Wales? And how do they pick themselves up for a home match against Ireland?
Malcolm, Scotland

Hi Malcolm, Scotland took wrong options, made unforced errors and Dan Parks stood too deep. Wales began hard and dominated the breakdown to which Scotland had little response. Against Ireland they will remember the game last year and draw confidence from that. I think Sean Lamont has proven to be Scotland's most potent strike runner at the moment and should start against Ireland. Scotland need to simplify their game plan to bring the backs and forwards more into the game.

I would use ball off the top of line-outs sending Nick De Luca/Southwell or Nikki Walker/Lamont giving forwards a target to hit. Secure quick ball and use the likes of Nathan Hines, Alastair Kellock and Kelly Brown to hit the ball up further. With quick ball Scotland will get the best out of Joe Ansbro and Max Evans who look sharp but are just trying too hard. To do this Scotland have to have momentum to win the breakdown battle. I would probably start with Parks but if he didn't stand flatter and get the backs going I would get Ruaridh Jackson on quickly.

In my opinion, Steve Thompson is way past what he should be in the England team. He fills a place on the bench that frankly seems wasted, at the beginning of a World Cup year in which we can already safely say will have huge amounts of hype, England need to look to the future... not players from Johnson's days, what do you think?
Dan Cook, England

Hi Dan, if there were other hookers playing much better then I would agree but I haven't seen much evidence of that this season. I really don't think Thompson has performed so badly that he doesn't deserve his spot on the bench.

Much as I wanted Ireland to beat the French, I felt referee Dave Pearson's interpretation of the scrum and breakdown were questionable, as did Brian Moore. What can be done to increase the parallels in refereeing interpretations? The differences between Pearson's and those of Craig Joubert (Eng v Italy) were huge. This is unhelpful to players and frustrating for fans. How can we avoid the issue being huge at the World Cup?
Jim Hulbert, England

Hi Jim, I agree that the two games appeared to be refereed in slightly different ways. To be fair to the International Rugby Board and Paddy O'Brien [Head of IRB referee board], they continually monitor and grade their refs trying to get that consistency. Teams do analyse refs looking at the way they officiate in certain areas of the game so teams shouldn't be overly surprised at most decisions. Most if not all World Cups have been refereed brilliantly. The IRB set out some refereeing criteria before the tournament starts and in general it is adhered to. It's easier to get the consistency of refereeing in a tournament because everyone's in the same place at the same time.

After leaving Murrayfield I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for the Scottish team as I don't think I have ever seen a poorer performance by them, but I was certainly very pleased by James Hook's performance and wonder what you think Wales could be capable of in the rest of the Six Nations and in the upcoming World Cup with Hook pulling the strings?
Matt Read, Wales

Hi Matt, JH played particularly well in the opening 20 minutes. I don't think Stephen Jones could have created Shane Williams' first try. He kicked well and seem to manage the game well. I can only see him growing in confidence and understanding the more he plays at 10. Now Wales have got this first win I don't expect them to look back. They should beat Italy quite comfortably.

Bit off the Six Nations topic here. With the Super 15 due to start this week, what chance that Danny Cipriani gets back into the England squad for the World Cup? Will he be considered if he plays well for the Rebels? Where would he be in line, behind Flood, Wilko, others?
Joe, Melbourne

Hi Joe, quite simply I think Flood, Wilkinson, Charlie Hodgson, Stephen Myler and a couple others would have to be injured before Martin Johnson would consider picking up the phone and asking DC to join the squad.

Team of the weekend: England

Player of the weekend: Chris Ashton

Surprise of the weekend: Scotland playing so poorly and Ireland scoring three tries to one and losing.

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



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see also
Ireland 22-25 France
13 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Kidney concerned at penalty count
13 Feb 11 |  Irish
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Teams will target Ashton - Cueto
13 Feb 11 |  English
Scotland 6-24 Wales
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 'better in England defeat'
13 Feb 11 |  Welsh
Saints keen to hang onto Eastmond
18 Feb 11 |  St Helens
Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A
07 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union


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