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Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Tuesday, 17 May 2011 13:15 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 answers your questions as a busy season enters the final furlong.

Among the topics making the headlines this week are:

- Manu Tuilagi's punches on Chris Ashton

- His tip for the European Player of the Year award

- His Fantasy Premiership XV

- Sir Clive Woodward's potential return to rugby

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.

Hi Jerry, What is generally the reaction in the dressing room after an event such as the Manu Tuilagi punch on Chris Ashton? Do the rest of the team back the player at all costs, or will there be some voicing their opinions after the game? Likewise, how do the management go about dealing with it, both during and after the game? Rob, Leicester

Hi Rob. Because this incident was off the ball, not all the players witnessed it first hand - and probably wouldn't have seen it until after the game. Once they had seen it, after realising Ashton wasn't seriously injured, there would have been some serious mickey-taking handed out to Ashton by the lads.

Mallinder 'frustrated' by Tuilagi decision

The Leicester Tigers players will have been told not to make any comment regarding the incident. Their director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, said after the game - in football manager style - that he didn't see the incident.

The Northampton Saints players, if asked, will say how they saw it. Ashton and Tuilagi embraced after the game, which seems to suggest that that's it until the next time they play each other. When they are part of the same England squad I imagine there will be some banter heading towards both of them. I remember when Paul Ackford got knocked out by Federico Mendez in 1990, he got loads of stick from the lads.

Jeremy, the latest incident of officials getting a major decision wrong in an important match was on display when Saints and Tigers battled it out. Tuilagi, who landed three clear head punches, got yellow. Ashton, who only did a bit of pushing, got a yellow too. We have the benefit of technology, is it not time to refer more than just try-line action to the video ref? Peter Singleton, NL

Peter, I really don't think the refs in general get that much wrong - but in this high-profile game the touch judge got it massively wrong. How he managed to see Tuilagi land punches and thought Ashton managed to throw some as well is hard to understand. I wouldn't like to see technology brought in for this kind of incident during the game. The officials just have to be better at spotting incidents like this.

I think everyone would recognise the fact that Manu Tuilagi should have been sent off against Northampton, but do you believe he has placed his short-term England career in jeopardy? Personally, I was very excited about the prospect of seeing him at the World Cup in the England midfield, but cannot see Martin Johnson overlooking this incident any time soon. David, Germany

Chris Ashton reacts after being punched by Manu Tuilagi
Ashton (with bloody eye) was incensed by the incident at Welford Road

Hi David, I don't believe England team manager Martin Johnson will hold this against Tuilagi in anyway whatsoever. If it's possible, the citing officer will overturn the original yellow and hand out the red. Tuilagi will serve his suspension and, hopefully for his sake, that will be the last time we see him lose control. If it happens again I would expect Johnson to have a word.

Jeremy, for a player with a reputation as a hot-head, I was mightily impressed that Dylan Hartley "turned the other cheek" as he was slapped by Martin Castrogiovanni on Saturday after giving away a free-kick at the scrum - in fact he put his aggression into the ensuing scrum and won it against the head! I have often thought that this sort of provocation should be punished by refs - whether it be a modest slap or a sarcastic rub of the head of an opponent who has just conceded a penalty. Surely this behaviour often leads to retaliatory action. I'm a mild-mannered accountant, but if Castrogiavanni had slapped me like that I would have swung at him! Robin Draper, UK

The Castro tap is something we see from time to time, and Hartley of all players knows he's likely to be targeted with something like that. It's up to the ref to sort out that kind of gamesmanship - if he doesn't there could be problems later in the game. To be fair, as you say, Hartley delivered the very best answer to Castro. It doesn't sound like you're that mild-mannered given you would have reacted to the Castro tap!

Hi Jeremy, as a Saints fan, although we're in the Heineken Cup final, I can't help feel disappointed that we are once again out at the semi-final stage of the league once again. I believe we are at least the second best team in the Premiership and should be in the final. Obviously, finishing fourth didn't help us, but next year, regardless of the Heineken result, I feel we should be ignoring the Heineken and focusing solely on the league. What are your thoughts? Sam Taylor, UK

Hi Sam, I would hazard a guess that most supporters would rather take the Heineken Cup over the Premiership. Most sides that have won the Heineken Cup have won their own domestic league.

Winning the Premiership is no easy task, over the season Saints deserved to finish where they did and from there it's difficult to go away from home and win a semi-final. It didn't help that Tuilagi should have been sent off as Saints would have been up against 14 men for a good 50 minutes. Sport has a habit of kicking you when you're down but in the long run everything should even itself out. Sam, you might have to face up to losing the Heineken Cup as well!

Jeremy, if Brian O'Driscoll is ruled out of Saturday's Heineken Cup final how do you see this impacting on the match and final result? Stephen McGovern, Ireland

Hi Stephen, it would be a huge loss to Leinster - but I'm not sure if it would mean they will lose.

Hello Jerry, I found it strange that there were so many empty seats in the two semi-finals at the weekend. Why do you think this is? Could it be ticket prices or do you think people are still not convinced with the play-off system? Frazer, England

Frazer, I'm pretty sure it was Saracen's highest crowd at Vicarage Road this season, but I have to say I was surprised that Welford Road wasn't a sell-out. To be fair the crowds are only a little bit down from last season's semis, and given these hard times it was probably anticipated by the clubs.

If you ask all the teams that have won the Premiership under the new format they would say that they are happy with it. All the teams that have finished top after the regular season and haven't won, probably aren't that happy with it. Overall, I believe all clubs have come to terms with the format and just accept it.

Soana Tonga'uiha of Northampton takes on Leicester's defence
Soane Tonga'uiha is Jerry's choice for European player of the year

Simple question really. With the announcement of the shortlist for European Player of the Year, in your opinion, who deserves to win the award and why? Steve Keegan, Ireland

Hi Steve, it's a fantastic line-up, and in a lot of ways they all deserve to win the award. Leinster's Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip haven't played that many games, and I haven't seen a great deal of Stade Francais and Italy number eight Sergio Parisse, so for me it's either Leinster full-back Isa Nacewa or Northampton prop forward Soane Tonga'uiha.

Nacewa has had some brilliant performances and been very consisent. Tonga'uiha has had a very long season with his fellow Saints prop Brian Mujati. It's an incrediably physically demanding position playing in that position, especially for someone as involved in the action as Tonga'uiha: scrum, line-out, breakdown, tackle, ball carry, etc. Tonga'uiha has put in class performances pretty much all season. It's a very close call - but for me it's Tonga'uiha.

What is your Fantasy Premiership team of the season 1 - 15? Mark, Reading, UK

Hi Mark... 15. Ben Foden [Saints], 14, Chris Ashton [Saints], 13. Manu Tuilagi [Tigers], 12. Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu [Gloucester], 11. Alesana Tuilagi [Tigers], 10. Nick Evans [Harlequins], 9. Ben Youngs [Tigers]; 8. Ernst Joubert [Saracens], 7. Craig Newby [Tigers], 6. Tom Johnson [Exeter Chiefs], 5. Courtney Lawes [Saints], 4. Mouritz Botha [Saracens], 3. Carlos Nieto [Saracens], 2. Schalk Brits [Sarcens], 1. Soane Tonga'uiha [Saints].

Hi Jerry, what message do you think the Rugby Football Union are sending if they are considering Sir Clive Woodward for the England performance director role instead of someone like a Jim Mallinder or Richard Cockerill? Shouldn't they be planning long term - which Woodward's role will ultimately not be? Anonymous

Hi, the RFU have done a reasonably good job being custodians of our game and we have to believe they will select the right person for the job. Woodward would appear to have the best credentials for the role, there's nothing about this position that suggests anything short term, and I would say it's planning for the future. The likes of Cockerill and Mallinder need to be in the game longer and have at least coached an international team. I don't think either would have applied for the job.

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see also
Manu Tuilagi given five-week ban
18 May 11 |  English
Leicester 11-3 Northampton
14 May 11 |  English
Guscott's predictions
15 May 11 |  English
Mallinder 'frustrated' by Tuilagi decision
16 May 11 |  Northampton
Saracens 12-10 Gloucester
15 May 11 |  English
RFU U-turn puts Woodward in frame
13 May 11 |  Rugby Union

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