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Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Thursday, 5 May 2011 12:38 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 after a week where European action took centre stage.

Among the topics Jerry discusses are:

- Northampton's chances of winning the Heienken Cup

- England and Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley's growing maturity

- The latest twist in the Gavin Henson saga

- New Zealand's back three for the World Cup

- His prowess as a bricklayer

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.


Northampton or Leinster to win the Heineken Cup final?
Tom, England

What a weekend of European rugby!!! Quite simply, who is going to lift the Heineken Cup in Cardiff?
Phillip Stephens, Bristol, England

Leinster celebrate their 2009 Heineken Cup triumph
Leinster, champions in 2009, look favourites to win the final on 21 May

Hi Tom and Phillip, for me Leinster are the team to beat. They've been there before, winning the tournament in 2009, and have got the more experienced players. However, Saints have played particularly well in this knockout stage and fully deserve their place in the final. It will be a titanic encounter up front - these two packs are very powerful, direct and pacy. I feel Leinster will have the edge on freshness and fitness but adrenaline will keep Saints close.

Hi Jeremy, what a match Northampton pulled off against USAP (Perpignan). They produced great intensity and immense character, with the likes of Dylan Hartley, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden all shining.

I saw Toulon play miserably against Perpignan (Jonny Wilkinson and some others just weren't on form that day) in the quarter-final when the Catalans really put the pressure on.

It is said that Perpignan are poor travellers, and very much so against English teams. Taking all that into consideration, what do you think Northampton's chances are against Leinster? Where do you think they might have to improve?
Robert Fairweather, France

Hi Robert, Saints will have to be at their very best to beat Leinster. I don't believe they will but I'm not always right with my predictions. Saints will not deviate from the way they have played all season. They will be aiming for a powerful forward performance allied to good game management from half-backs Stephen Myler and Lee Dickson, while star England backs Foden and Ashton will always be a threat.

Saints almost need the perfect game, or for Leinster to be a tad off form, if they are to win this match. The final will be a huge occasion if Saints can get an early lead and build pressure on Leinster - they could then hold on.

Myler cannot afford to miss any opportunities to take points and the rest of the team cannot afford any unforced errors. It's a game I'm very much looking forward to watching, I do believe the best two teams have made the final.

Do you agree with Sean Fitzpatrick's comment that Northampton captain Dylan Hartley has matured into an outstanding leader? Do you think he could captain England one day?
Simon Cope, France

Hi Simon, there is little doubt that Hartley has improved his temperament and has led Saints well. It wouldn't be a surprise if an England qualified captain from a top team became captain of England.

There will be a new captain after the World Cup and for Hartley to become captain of England, Martin Johnson needs to believe he is the number one England hooker, and that every player in the squad respects him enough to have him as their leader.

Hi Jeremy, what did you make of the Leinster v Toulouse match? Where was the match won and lost for you?
Stephen McGovern, Ireland

Hi Stephen, I really enjoyed the intensity of the game, at times it was incredibly physical. I thought the Leinster fitness told as they maintained their intensity longer than Toulouse. The French side gave away a lot of penalties and Jonathan Sexton didn't miss an opportunity - the Ireland fly-half is proving to be a player who can cope with pressure.

Harlequins celebrate victory away to Munster
Harlequins need to find more consistency to join the game's big guns

In the Rugby Paper you labelled Harlequins a middle-ranking side. In view of the great work Conor O'Shea has done in 12 months, the growing strength of the young players coming through the academy and Saturday's result at Munster, do you think you might be too dismissive of the future potential of this group?

Granted, they have been inconsistent, but they have more than matched every team in the top half this season for large periods of games. Why do you put them in this middle tier?
Steve Colvin

The performance from Quins at Munster must surely rank as the best by an English club side this season, especially when you take into account the occasion, the venue and the opposition. How big a boost will this be for O'Shea's young squad?

I don't think they should fear anybody, have a real shot in the final, and next season may now have the self-belief to match their ability and challenge for the Premiership. Also, following further outstanding performances, do you not feel it is time that Danny Care usurped the woefully off-form Ben Youngs as England scrum-half, and that flanker Chris Robshaw is finally given a proper chance at international level?
Tom Curran, UK

Hi Steve and Tom, your excitement regarding Quins' performance in beating Munster away from home and reaching the final is well understood. However, my middle ranking of Quins is based on their performances in the Premiership over the past few seasons since they won promotion back to the top flight.

They finished eighth last season, second, sixth and seventh in the previous ones, and look likely to finish seventh this season. Quins have at times performed well in beating top teams but one-off wins count for nothing, unless they are in finals. Quins are at that stage where mentally they need to understand how good they are, not how good they can be.

You achieve this through consistency of performance and regularly finishing in the play-offs and then winning competitions like the Premiership or Heineken Cup. Like a lot of teams in the Premiership, Quins could do with strengthening the squad, but under the current salary cap that's going to be incredibly difficult.

In the Championship semi-final between Worcester and Bedford, I saw the latter's full-back cut some lovely angles when he came into the back-line, but I never see any full-backs in the Premiership do this! Why do you think that is?
Sam, England

Hi Sam, different teams play in different styles depending on their players' skill sets. You should also have seen a lot more full-backs coming into the back line over the past few weeks because conditions have been more suited to back play recently.

Dear Jeremy, so it's Cornish Pirates v Worcester in the Championship play-off. If Pirates win, they don't have a ground that the RFU thinks is fit for Premiership rugby. Pirates will have earned the right to be promoted, so it's very unfair on them and rather makes a mockery of the RFU's regulations don't you think?
Ian Stevens, Kenya

Hi Ian, I sympathise with you but I'm sure all the teams in the Championship understood the criteria required to enter the Premiership should they win the title. I agree with the current criteria.

Hi Jerry, after the latest controversy surrounding Gavin Henson, do you think this greatly talented player will always fail to fulfil his potential? Personally, I don't think Henson will ever get his act together and put rugby first, which is very sad to see.
Baz, England

Gavin Henson
Henson is no longer suspended by his new French club, Toulon

Hi Baz, I truly wish Henson could get his act together to fulfil the potential he has. It could be too late but I would at least like to see him play his last seasons and be remembered for the way he played rather than what he did off the field. He needs to decide himself what he wants to do, I just hope he wants to play rugby and show the world what we've been missing.

Hey Jerry, I was just wondering what you think about London Irish full-back Delon Armitage. Back in 2009 he was in incredible form and playing some amazing attacking rugby. To me he hasn't seemed right since and has just been banned for punching Northampton number 10 Stephen Myler. What's gone wrong?
Fraser, England

Hi Fraser, a couple of seasons ago Armitage could do no wrong on a rugby field. Since losing his England shirt he hasn't performed well and has for the most part looked frustrated. He needs to clear his head, get on with playing his natural game and not worry about things out of his control.

Hi Jerry, looking ahead to the World Cup, who would you play in the New Zealand back three as there is so much talent to choose from at the moment, particularly from the Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs Super Rugby teams?
Ben Cross, England

Hi Ben, at 15 Mils Muliaina, Hosea Gear at 14 and Sitiveni Sivivatu on the other wing.

And finally…

How may bricks could you lay in a day, back in the day?
Earthman, UK

Hi Earthman, not enough…

(Editors note: Back in the amateur days, when players had jobs as well as playing top-level rugby, Jerry had a spell as a bricklayer.)

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



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see also
Northampton 23-7 Perpignan
01 May 11 |  Rugby Union
Leinster 32-23 Toulouse
02 May 11 |  Rugby Union
Munster 12-20 Harlequins
29 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Woodward cool on link to RFU role
29 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Best wants WRU to 'manage' Henson
29 Apr 11 |  Welsh
Armitage banned for three weeks
03 May 11 |  London Irish
Sale snap up Burrell from Leeds
28 Apr 11 |  Sale
Bath lock Grewcock to end career
27 Apr 11 |  Bath
Exeter Chiefs deducted two points
28 Apr 11 |  Exeter
Azam gets four-week headbutt ban
28 Apr 11 |  Gloucester


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