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 after the penultimate round of Six Nations matches.
Among the topics discussed this week are:
- Whether Wales should be condemned for their sharp practice against Ireland
- If England should play Matt Banahan against Ireland if Mike Tindall fails to recover from injury
- Italian joy and French failings after the Azzurri beat les Bleus in Rome
- When during his career he felt as ecstatic as the Italian players and as gutted as the French players
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.
In relation to the
I was wondering why no-one was using the word "cheat"? Both players involved obviously know the rule and knew they were trying to con the referee at the time.
Jacob Wilson, England
Highlights - Wales 19-13 Ireland
Jeremy, I'm a bit concerned that blatant cheating, eg the wrong line-out ball used in the Welsh/Irish match, is being euphemistically referred to as 'gamesmanship' or 'luck'. It seems to tarnish the sporting ideal of 'may the best man win'. What do you think?
Brian Booth, UK
Hi Jacob and Brian, you are both right, it is cheating, but also I don't see the harm in describing it as gamesmanship. Like it or not there will always be gamesmanship in all sports, it's up to the officials to spot it and get the rulings right. Touchjudge Peter Allan made a huge error in saying 100% it was the correct ball!! Unfortunately because of the present protocol Jonathan Kaplan couldn't go to the Television Match Official (TMO) to ask 'is there any reason why I can't allow the score?' because the TMO can only be used in decisions regarding the act of scoring.
On the Mike Phillips try; as a neutral I agree that those types of clearly wrong decisions should not be allowed to stand, but it's amazing how the same team can have such different reactions to similar incidents. There is still a bitter taste in many South African fans' mouths after Ronan O'Gara's controversial try against the Boks.
South Africa captain John Smit was sent back to talk to his team and O'Gara tapped quickly and ran in for a try untouched while Smit thought time was off. At the time, every Irish fan was saying that O'Gara just played the game and got away with it. That too, was a match-deciding score. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, can Ireland say "Rees and Phillips just played the game and got away with it"?
Wes, South Africa
Hi Wes, all sport would be better for the right decisions made at the right time but human error happens. If the sport can learn from these types of experiences we will be better for it. The worry of course is if something like the Phillips try or O'Gara try decides the winner of any knock-out game in the World Cup (RWC) or Heineken Cup, now that would be interesting!
Hi Jeremy, do you agree that Tindall's injury was a blessing in disguise on Sunday? His passing has been poor again all championship and I find it amazing that someone with such experience can't throw a pass that allows the outside player to run on to the ball without checking his stride. Why has nobody sought to improve this in his game?
Hi Dan, some players are far from perfect at some skills but like you I would expect Tindall's passing to be more accurate. It's a part of his game that is weak and I would expect him to improve through more practice.
Hi Jerry, Banahan is a great attacking force. However, if he starts against Ireland I think those wily old foxes, Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy, may exploit his lack of experience defending in the midfield. Should England bring in a more experienced outside centre, a key defensive position, if Tindall does not make it because of his ankle injury?
Andrew Tanner, England
Highlights - England 22-16 Scotland
Hi Andrew, Martin Johnson (MJ) seems really happy with Banahan replacing Tindall and if the captain isn't fit for this Saturday I'm sure MJ will stick with the Bath man.
Defending is pretty simple, you tackle any player in your channel with the confidence that your inside is covered. Problems arise when one player steps out of sync with the rest, ie goes flying up out of the line or doesn't come up in the line. Whether Tindall or Banahan play I believe Ireland will attack that channel with the run around move they do a lot.
How can MJ stop other teams focusing on Chris Ashton and Ben Foden and killing England's backs game during the Six Nations and RWC? Should Shontayne Hape and Tindall run the ball more in midfield rather than just passing it out to the wings?
Hi Ben, I have been bashing on about using Tindall and Hape more in attack or at least varying the options more between them and the back three. England appear to be complicating matters in attack. On Sunday a lot of ball should have been carried down Scotland fly-half Ruaridh Jackson's channel by Hape, why they didn't do this is beyond me.
Jeremy, with important players coming back from injury in the shape of Tom Croft and Courtney Lawes, would you draft them into the starting XV for the game against Ireland on Saturday, especially given the relatively quiet games of Tom Wood and Louis Deacon? Or would you persist with a consistent and proven formula?
Benjamin Norris, England
Hi Benjamin, personally I would draft the players back onto the bench and bring them on if required. It's a big call for a player to come straight back in without any serious game time given that their replacements, in general, have been playing reasonably well. Croft has probably done enough to start but Lawes hasn't.
Hi Jeremy, a great result for England on Sunday on the back of a stuttering performance. The game reminded me of the South Africa game in the autumn when the referee's interpretation at the breakdown really damaged England. How did Scotland get away with so much at the breakdown, especially lying on the tackler and coming in from the side?
It slowed down every breakdown and made England look second best when actually they were keeping people out of the contact to get quick ball. It seemed all the advantage was given to the defending side, which is not the current direction.
Hi Andy, I haven't watched the game back yet but from memory the Scots put more numbers than England into a lot of the breakdown, making it hard for England to get quick ball. England didn't really react to that and suffered as a consequence for most of the match.
Congratulations to Italy! France have forgotten that rugby is a TEAM sport. They are potentially exceptional but Italy wanted it more. Do France need to be in front of the All Blacks to get the magic back? Well done Italy. Regards, Didier.
Didier Gourdon, France
Extended highlights - Italy 22-21 France
Hi Didier, individuals for France played so badly it is hard to comprehend, as coach Marc Lievremont tried to explain in his post-match interviews. The coach went overboard in his assassination of his players as he picks the team and is accountable himself. Lievremont has to prove he's right for the job by getting his next selection correct. He's picked so many players over the last three years that it's coming back to haunt him.
Pick your best side and don't tinker with it too much. Italy played well and deserved their first Six Nations victory over the French, I couldn't be happier for them. In Rome after the final whistle, watching the reaction of the Italian players, coaches and supporters was a special place to be.
Hi Jeremy, while I appreciate he is our best option and still very young, for how long can Ben Youngs continue to close down Toby Flood's space by infuriatingly crabbing two, three, even four steps from every breakdown before passing? How long until the issue is addressed? Surely this goes against the basic fundamentals of scrum-half play, so why haven't the England coaches had a word in his ear?
David Osborne, England
Hi David, you're right, Youngs has began to run too much from the breakdown with ball in hand rather than just whipping it out to Flood. I hope the England scrum-half is being asked to do that rather than him making that decision. If he's being asked to play like that, hopefully the coach will see the error in this ploy and revert to a more traditional approach.
With another stellar performance from Scotland second row Richie Gray, do you feel too much has been made of your light-hearted criticism of him pre-tournament, with it brought up every time he has played well?
Hi Richard, it's the nature of the beast, I take it all on the chin. To be fair, if Jonathan Davies or any other pundit had said the things I did about another player and got it so wrong I would be giving them a ribbing. It's is all done in good taste, we all like a bit of banter!
At the moment England are stacked at fly-half, with Flood and Jonny Wilkinson on such good form, but did you see Danny Cipriani's try for the Melbourne Rebels against the Sharks? With more impressive displays like this, how long do you think it will be before the media start a campaign to get him back in the team? And moreover, how long before Johnno considers him again? A potential World Cup wildcard option perhaps?
Dave W, England
Hi Dave, for all Cipriani's brilliance in scoring his try, he was responsible for two of the Sharks scores. Neither Flood or Wilkinson could dream of doing something similar to the try he scored. On the other hand, I don't believe Flood or Wilkinson would have missed the tackle or thrown the pass that lead to two of the Sharks scores! The only way Cipriani will be a wildcard in the RWC is if Flood and Wilkinson get injured.
Do you not think the Rugby Football Union's incentives to pick English players are counter productive when they make teams play so many important games without their internationals? Northampton have provided some of England's best players and now, as a result of not having them and losing a number of games, are considering bringing in more overseas players next season.
While Ashton has been starring for England, Northampton have struggled
Northampton are the main casualty of this at the moment, but other teams will soon catch on to the downside of having England players in their side.
Hi Bob, you make a valid point and it doesn't seem fair to the clubs that provide England players that they should suffer like Saints. There are a number of ways to make the situation better.
The playing structure of the league could be revised so that the Premiership and HC is played outside the Six Nations, allowing the England internationals to play for their clubs. Another way would be to incentivise the clubs providing English players by giving them a larger salary cap to replace players in the event they are selected for England.
With Stephen Ferris one of your "ones to watch" before the tournament began, how big of a loss has he been to Ireland? Do you think that he is the best flanker in the northern hemisphere or even the world when he is in form?
Adam, Northern Ireland
Hi Adam, Ferris is a huge loss to Ireland as I do believe he is world class, one of the best back row players in the world.
In light of Italy's fantastic win, which match have you most felt like the Italians and conversely which match left you feeling like the French?
Hi Carl, I felt like the Italians when playing for the Lions against South Africa in 1997. We were written off and expected to lose the series 3-0, winning gave us so much satisfaction. I felt like the French a couple of times when playing for Bath and losing to Moseley and Waterloo in domestic cup competitions.
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