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Rugby World Cup 2011: Jeremy Guscott's Q&A

Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson does not deserve a place against France, says Guscott

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott answers your questions after the final round of World Cup pool games in New Zealand

Among the topics he discusses this week:

- New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter to miss rest of World Cup

- Looking ahead to the quarter-finals

- England's chances of success despite their off-field issues

- Martin Johnson's impending decision on whether to start with Jonny Wilkinson or Toby Flood against France

- Who he believes is the best open-side flanker of the World Cup so far

If you have any questions for Jeremy, please use the post form on this page. He will answer as many as possible next week, but unfortunately not every question submitted can be used.

Simple one: How much will the All Blacks miss Dan Carter?
George Leith, England

Dan Carter
Carter's groin injury means he will miss the rest of the tournament

How will New Zealand do without Dan Carter?
Massimo, Italy

Do you think New Zealand can still be great and win the World Cup without Carter?
Ed Stewart, England

Hi George, Massimo and Ed,

Firstly, it's a massive shame that Carter is out of the World Cup. No matter who we may support you want to watch the best players in the world playing in the biggest competition.

Carter's absence is a loss not just to the All Blacks and New Zealand but also to the rest of the rugby world. A player of his calibre may only come round once in a lifetime. I really do believe it becomes a lot harder for New Zealand to win without Carter.

The best bit of advice I've heard been given to his replacement Colin Slade is that he needs to play like Colin Slade and not Dan Carter because Carter is a one-off. New Zealand can still win the World Cup; it just becomes harder in many ways without one of the best players in the world unavailable.

Even though it goes against their policy and rules and they never will call him up, do you think New Zealand would have a better chance of winning the World Cup if they asked Harlequins number 10 Nick Evans to go back and play? I believe he is one of the top three fly-halves in the world.
Richard, England

With Carter out of the picture could the NZRU come to regret their rule on foreign-based players? Evans' kicking is pretty much spot on and with ball in hand he is a class apart from the rest of the Premiership fly-halves. Naturally I'm biased as a Quins fan!
Tom, Tajikistan

Hi Richard and Tom,

The NZRFU decided on a policy of not selecting overseas players some time ago and I cannot see them changing that unless players of the calibre of Carter and Richie McCaw decided they wanted to play abroad.

They could have changed their minds in the run-up to World Cup because they knew Evans was playing well and they didn't have great back-up for Carter, but they have stuck to their decision. This will now be the making or breaking of Colin Slade because the whole of world rugby will be focused on him and his performance.

Might the Pumas make history, beating the All Blacks without Carter?
Roberto, Argentina

Hi Roberto,

With or without Carter the likelihood of the Pumas beating New Zealand was always going to be slim. Four years ago, Argentina were brilliant in beating the likes of France, Ireland and Scotland but beating New Zealand in New Zealand would be as big an upset as we've ever seen in any sport.

On current form, I wouldn't give England that much of a chance against Wales or Ireland but knockout rugby is so much about the here and now

Can you see a very ill-disciplined, error-ridden, and arrogant England team reaching another final?
Rob Karlsen, Wales

Hi Rob,

Yes I could see this current team make the final. France look terrible and England have recently beaten Ireland and Wales.

On current form, I wouldn't give England that much of a chance against Wales or Ireland, if England even made it to the semis. But knockout rugby is so much about the here and now; form to a certain degree flies out of the window.

I haven't seen the Wales squad play this well consistently for at least a couple of seasons and Ireland have recaptured the dogged defiance that characterises the play of Munster and Leinster in European club rugby. England have coughed and spluttered to the quarter-finals, now I hope they have come to terms with the problems that are preventing them from producing the good rugby we have seen in the recent past.

If England have been slated for playing so badly, and still beat the Scots, it doesn't say much for the Scots, does it?
Henry, UK

Hi Henry,

In my opinion, Scotland have got to go away with their coach and come up with a plan that makes them score tries. They are capable players who, for whatever reasons, can't get into the try-scoring habit.

After two very unconvincing performances against Argentina and Scotland, and despite Lawrence Dallaglio's insistence that he played amazingly against France in the last World Cup (four years ago!) do you honestly think Jonny Wilkinson should start for England in the quarter-final? Or do you think they should choose Toby Flood, who was heavily involved in England's sole try against the Scots and subsequently nailed the conversion from out wide (the type of kick Jonny's been missing most of the tournament)?
Dan Smith, England

Hi Dan,

I believe it is more a case of Jonny Wilkinson having played himself out of the team than Toby Flood playing himself in. These two players were so close performance-wise coming into this competition that Martin Johnson gave them both a fair crack at sealing the number one slot.

Wilkinson sealed it with his performance against Ireland before leaving for New Zealand but he has not been convincing so far and therefore Flood deserves to start. If Johnson sticks with Wilkinson it means he can't let go of the past. Wilkinson doesn't deserve to start against France because he simply hasn't played well enough.

Why are England behaving like such a bunch of spoilt brats? Surely that wouldn't have happened in your day or that of Martin Johnson.
Richard Thomas, Australia

Hi Richard,

I can't say I, or the rest of the squad in days gone by, didn't go out and on occasions get completely hammered. We played in an era and at a time when a player, squad or team going out and having a drink was tolerated more.

During the 1991 World Cup we spent some time in Jersey before playing France in the quarter-final. Our partners had come to join us and within the confines of the hotel we had a big party, it was very boozy. Times have changed but responsibility hasn't, there's a time and place to do most things, timing is everything.

What is your opinion on England scrum-half Ben Youngs? I thought he had a dire game against Scotland. He continually took too long to make a decision and too long to execute it. His passing was generally poor too. Is it a coincidence that we scored when he was off the field?
Dave Wells, England

During the Scotland game I thought Youngs' performance was poor at best. I have previously held him in high regard and have always considered him first choice but now don't think he should start against France. Not a big fan of Wigglesworth either so that leaves Joe Simpson. Your thoughts?
Richard, England

Ben Youngs
Youngs' recent poor form has been called into question

Hi Dave and Richard,

I'm a Youngs fan but when I see him perform like he did against Scotland and as he did against Ireland in the Six Nations, I get confused as to how someone can be so good one minute and so bad the next.

Youngs is still a relatively inexperienced player and hasn't yet learned how to boss the likes of James Haskell and Nick Easter. He still relies on Flood as the senior partner to lead when they play together and he won't get any direction from Wilkinson when he plays with him.

Youngs should play more with his instinct, although that would be tough in an England team that lacks instinct. I would keep him in but change quickly if he didn't look like he was bossing the game, and go with Simpson rather than Wigglesworth.

Why is it that when Manchester United, for example, manage a 1-0 or a 2-1 win they are praised for the ability to grind out results despite not playing very well, yet we slaughter the England team when they don't play well but still win? We still have a 100% record in the World Cup, something Wales and France don't.
James Buchanan, England

Hi James,

You make a very valid point. I suppose it's all about expectation: the England team have set expectation levels high because of what they achieved against Australia last autumn. It's difficult to be satisfied with a sub-par performance.

If England win the World Cup playing as they are, most of their supporters would be pleased and surprised.

How do you rate the performance so far of Manu Tuilagi, who you predicted to be one of the young stars of the tournament?
Mo, UK

Hi Mo,

Tuilagi has been good. I wish they would get him involved more and get the ball to him as often as they can, as he should be England's go-to player.

Ireland or Wales?
Andy, Ireland

After seeing this weekend's brutal dispatching of Fiji and Italy by Wales and Ireland respectively, I personally feel that anyone who thinks they can accurately predict the outcome of that quarter-final is a braver man than I. With that in mind, what's your call?
Dale, Wales

What quarter-final are you most looking forward to?
Ben, England

Hi Andy, Dale and Ben

Three of the four quarter-finals are mouth-watering because no one can really hang their hat on any of the results. I can only predict that New Zealand will beat Argentina. In the other games, there's a case for any team to win.

Two questions for you: Who is the best open-side flanker, Ireland's Sean or Sam Warburton of Wales? And who has been the best player for you so far at this World Cup?

Morne Steyn
South Africa's Morne Steyn has been impressive

David, Wales

Hi David,

O'Brien isn't really an open-side; he's a blind-side doing a grand job playing in the number seven shirt. Warburton is the better seven - he slows opposition ball down, turns opposition ball over and links well with his backline. O'Brien carries so well, I don't remember seeing him hit backwards as yet.

I couldn't pick my best player but I've been very impressed by Warburton and O'Brien along with Jamie Roberts and Stephen Ferris. Of southern hemisphere players, All Blacks Israel Dagg and Jerome Kaino, and Springboks Morne Steyn, Danie Rossouw and Heinrich Brussow have stood out.

How much of a chance would you give a Northern Hemisphere side in taking the Webb Ellis trophy at this stage?
Carl Milner, England

Hi Carl,

There are lots of permutations flying around at this stage but, on current form, Wales or Ireland could push anyone close in the final.

How do you rate the performance of the Pacific island nations at this year's World Cup?
John Grint, UK

Hi John,

I've always enjoyed the physicality of the Pacific island teams and the athleticism, particularly in the forwards. Tonga had the result of the RWC 2011 by beating France - it was just fantastic to witness - but slipped up against Canada. Otherwise could have been pushing for the quarter-finals.

Samoa have been brilliant - and I'm looking forward to seeing flanker George Stowers playing for Ospreys - while Fiji started promisingly against Namibia but then fell back.

Follow Jerry on Twitter: @JeremyGuscott

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see also
All Black Carter out of World Cup
02 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Argentina 25-7 Georgia
02 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
England 16-12 Scotland
01 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
France 14-19 Tonga
01 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Fiji 0-66 Wales
02 Oct 11 |  Welsh
New Zealand 79-15 Canada
02 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 13-5 Samoa
30 Sep 11 |  Rugby Union

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