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Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Monday, 25 April 2011 18:19 UK

Jeremy Guscott 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 here to answer your questions as the domestic season enters the final furlong.

This week, Jerry discusses:

- Who will win the Premiership this season and who will go down

- Mercurial Australia fly-half Quade Cooper

- Italy's decision to dump Nick Mallett as coach after the World Cup

- Matt Banahan's future at inside centre at international level

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.


Hi Jeremy, with both Leicester and Saracens securing home semi-finals, can you see anything other than a repeat of last year's final? Jack Livings, Leamington Spa, England

Northampton prop Soane Tonga'uiha
Can giant prop Soane Tonga'uiha help Northampton upset the odds?

Hi Jack, it looks likely that it will be a repeat of last year's final, but I'm sure Gloucester and Saints have other plans. I think Saints at their very best could upset the Tigers at Welford Road - but it will take their very best to do it. Saracens are on a roll and look a safe bet for the final.

Simple question Jeremy, who do you think will go down from the Premiership?
Jon, England

Hi Jon, simple answer, Leeds.

Dear Jerry, your previous prediction for the Premiership was that Northampton would win, however, this was made before their disastrous slump in form with their internationals playing for England.

They now find themselves staring at the prospect of playing away to Leicester in the semi-final, so I ask if you want to change your mind on who is going to win it?
Matthew Helfet, United Kingdom

Hi Matthew, if Saints beat Tigers in the semi they would be my team to beat. If the Tigers win I will go for the in-form Sarries to win the title.

Hi Jeremy, being a Northampton fan and having watched their Heineken Cup quarter-final and London Irish wins it is clear that their pack is the key to their success.

However, when they come up against teams like Perpignan, Saracens or Leicester, I feel that James Downey and Jon Clarke in the centres are just too one dimensional. How much of a problem do you think this could pose and what are the other options? Thanks.
Luke, United Kingdom

Hi Luke, Saints' strategy is simple, power up front and Downey, plus Clarke sometimes, to get over the gainline. The aim is to play on the front foot and it generally works for Saints. Joe Ansbro would be the alternative to Clarke but Mallinder favours the latter. If Saints' forwards do their job it becomes much easier for the backs to operate, even with Downey running hard and straight. As predictable as you might think it is, it works.

Jeremy, what is your view on Saracens? Do you think they stand a chance of the title this year? Also, what about players like Brad Barritt and Andy Saull - don't you think these two should be considered for England, especially Barritt?
Daniel Hurke, England

Hi Daniel, Sarries have timed their run into the play-offs to perfection. They are high in self-belief and that breeds confidence, which is crucial going into the play-offs. If necessary they can give a break to some of their key players so they are ready for a probable semi-final against Gloucester.

As for Sarries players getting selected for England, they need to keep playing well. Whether they win or lose the Premiership final I would expect David Strettle to be in the World Cup squad, and maybe Matt Stevens (he needs to get leaner) and Alex Goode as well.

Hi Jeremy, I watched the Queensland Reds v the New South Wales Waratahs in the Super 15 this weekend and found Quade Cooper to be very annoying to watch. He had some great moments but too often he kicked poorly or gave poor ball to his backs.

Quade Cooper celebrates after scoring a try for Queensland
You never quite know what you're going to get with Cooper

Would you rather have a fly-half in your team who can be amazing at times but equally as bad, or would you rather have someone like Toby Flood, who maybe doesn't have that spark but is more consistent and steady each game?
Rich, Peterborough, UK

Hi Rich, with players like Cooper you take the rough with the smooth, it's when it becomes more rough than smooth you have to sort it out. He's still only 23 and learning his trade, with every possibility of being the best 10 in the world once Dan Carter, who is now 29, retires.

He has to learn to rein in temptation to deliver the miracle pass or kick at the wrong time and realise when it's on and when it's not on. I think it's difficult sometimes for team-mates to read him, and the fact he is so unpredictable doesn't help. As it stands I do believe he will get better and better, and I like watching him play because he's attack orientated, which I'm a fan of.

Jerry, what are your thoughts on Matt Banahan becoming England's inside centre? He has got good pace - neither Tom Varndell nor Noah Cato could catch him to prevent a try - and his hands, positioning and defence blow everyone else away.

Correct me if I am wrong but how many times has Banahan played centre for Bath, and how many tries has he scored - five I believe? If you were playing 13 or 10, who would you like at 12? He is certainly a better option than Shontayne Hape, Barritt etc.
Jonathan

Hi Jonathan, Banahan has made a strong case for himself to be playing 12 or 13 for England and given Hape's last couple of performances I wouldn't be surprised if he did make a start. There's a big difference between playing centre for your club, however, and playing at international level.

I know none of the England team played particularly well against Ireland in the Six Nations but that was an opportunity for Banahan to make an impression and he didn't. He will get another chance against the Baa-Baa's and hopefully he can make it difficult for the selectors not to pick him for the next games.

Your thoughts now that Irish teams take up positions one, two and three in the Magners League?
Adam, Dungannon, Northern Ireland

Hi Adam, I'm not surprised given how they have been playing. Munster you always feel will be there or thereabouts, Leinster have too much class not to be up there and Ulster have been the most improved team this season.

I can't believe that Italy have let a world-class coach like Nick Mallet go. Under him they actually beat the previous year's Six Nations champions, France.
Dan Millington, England

Italy coach Nick Mallett
Have Italy made a mistake by deciding to get rid of Mallett?

I don't see how the heads of Italian rugby can think they could get another coach of the same ability as Nick Mallett. Whoever they do bring in, will they make much of a difference to a team that seems to play as much for their all-inspiring coach, as for their nation? What is your opinion on this matter?
Jake, England

Hi Dan and Jake, I have to say I was stunned by the FIR's decision not to renew Mallett's contract and to make the announcement before the World Cup. Perpignan coach Jacques Brunel is expected to be named as his successor - how he's going to do more for Italian rugby I don't know, but I can't wait to see how it goes.

Hi Jeremy, when the English football team have a poor international campaign, a lot of the blame comes down to the amount of foreign players in the Premier League.

Do you think the French international rugby side will be affected in the same way by the number of foreign players that are playing in the Top 14?
Callum Sheppard, England

Hi Callum, re football, it's not all down to the number of foreign players playing in the Premiership, a lot is to do with the style of play as well. However, not having more English players available doesn't help the situation and the French rugby authorities are already concerned about this. At the moment it doesn't seem to be affecting Marc Lievremont's selection policy though, given he's used 83 players in the last three years!!

Hi Jerry, I was wondering what your thoughts are on the drop-off in form of both Ben Youngs and Toby Flood? Was the pressure too great? Ben is a great prospect but Toby has been in the England camp for a while.

I have to be honest, I am not a Flood fan, and feel that fly-half is a position where England don't threaten the opposition to any great extent. Is there a young prospect that is worth keeping an eye on with Danny Cipriani now down under and no longer under consideration?
Clive Whitethread, UK

Hi Clive, it's difficult to maintain a really high level of performance given the demands on English players from club and country. Flood has been OK but Youngs looks to me to be trying too hard, rather than letting instinct govern his play, which is what got him noticed in the first place.

He's being a little bit fussy and petty as well, which he shouldn't be about. I like a swagger and a bit of feistiness but it has to be measured, being petulant and immature won't get you anywhere quick.

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



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see also
Guscott's predictions
25 Apr 11 |  English
Saracens 35-12 Gloucester
24 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Leeds 3-38 Harlequins
24 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
London Irish 20-26 Northampton
23 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Wasps 10-43 Bath
23 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Henson given reprieve by Toulon
02 May 11 |  Welsh
Waratahs court Phillips and Peel
24 Apr 11 |  Ospreys
Ospreys 20-22 Munster
23 Apr 11 |  Ospreys
Aironi 8-20 Leinster
23 Apr 11 |  Leinster
Newcastle 13-24 Leicester
22 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Edinburgh 27-15 Dragons
22 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Ulster 27-16 Connacht
23 Apr 11 |  Ulster
Sale 24-30 Exeter
22 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union


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