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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

Shane Williams

What a player - the retiring Shane Williams runs in the tries for Wales

Jeremy Guscott

Former England centre Jeremy Guscott answers your questions as domestic action once again takes centre stage

Among the topics Jerry discusses this week are:

- Whether Wales winger Shane Williams belongs among the greats

- The "ludicrous" situation at the top of the Rugby Football Union

- If moving to Perpignan will revitalise out-of-sorts Wales back James Hook

- What he made of the French advance on the haka before the World Cup final

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. This week's answers appear below.

Wales winger Shane Williams has announced that his final international match will be against the Wallabies in December. After a glittering career, where does he rank amongst the world's greatest wingers, past and present?
Adam, UK

Hi Jeremy, with Shane Williams's impending retirement from international rugby, how important is his contribution and would it be fair to put him up there with the legends of world rugby?
Glyn Seward, Wales

Hi Adam and Glyn, without doubt Shane Williams has been a fantastic winger, right up there with the best who have ever played. He has been an inspiration to those lucky enough to play with him, against him and for those who have watched him.

For me the mark of a brilliant player is one who looks as though he has all the time in the world to do what they want with the ball in hand. Shane Williams was one of those players. Some of the best I've seen over the years are Australia's David Campese, New Zealand's Jonah Lomu, England's Rory Underwood, All Black John Kirwan and England's cross-code star Jason Robinson - Shane Williams stands comfortably in this company as one of the greats.

Current Premiership leaders Harlequins will need a bad run of form to slip out of the top four before the end of the season

Jeremy, looking at the top teams currently in the Premiership who are being guided to victory by upcoming young English stars, particularly Harlequins and Saracens, is it not about time that they were given a chance to replicate their performances on a bigger stage? Owen Farrell, Andy Goode, Andy Saull, Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe are all surely good enough to warrant a place?
James Akhurst, England

Hi Jerry, who do you see as the young guns that could be introduced to the England set-up post the World Cup (RWC) failings? Do you think we should be blooding guys from previous Under-20 World Cup campaigns like Owen Farrell, Jonny May etc, and could they be given game time as soon as the Six Nations?
Dave Lucas,

Hi James and Dave, all the players mentioned have been playing their part in their team's success and will be challenging for England squad positions come the Six Nations if they continue to play well. For me there is a lot of talk about bringing in youngsters and, although I'm all for it, it should not be at the expense of any player who is playing well.

If there's to be one point learnt from England's RWC campaign, it has to be to pick players on form - not because of past glories. The main position where England need talent is in the centre. Manu Tuilagi has made a big case to stay and the question is who can push on and join him. Lowe, Jonny May, Turner-Hall, Brad Barritt, and possibly Farrell, are certainly making cases for inclusion.

George Ford takes on the Scarlets defence for Leicester in the LV= Cup
Ford has been getting game time in the LV= Cup for Leicester

Hi Jeremy, after winning the IRB young player of the year award and being hotly tipped as a future England star, when do you think we will start to see George Ford playing more regularly in the Premiership? The fly-half is currently at Leicester - do you think he would benefit from moving clubs to get first-team experience?
Brian, UK

Hi Brian, it's a great award for [18-year-old] Ford to win but it by no means guarantees he's going to be the player who challenges Toby Flood for the England number 10 shirt. Whatever he's doing to date is working and being the understudy to Flood at Tigers will help his development. There will come a time in the next couple of seasons when he will have to make a big decision whether to stay and fight to get that Tigers 10 shirt, or move to another club where first team rugby might be guaranteed. If he's good enough he will take Flood's place - at the minute he's some way behind.

The Blackett Review shows things to be far worse at the Rugby Football Union than we ever thought possible from the press reports we have read. Getting acting chief executive Martyn Thomas to resign doesn't seem anywhere near enough change to sort out the mess. What is the solution?
Tim Platt, England

Hello Jeremy, numerous respected observers have all made the point that Thomas, the majority of the RFU management board and England's coaches all need to go if England are to have a chance of developing a strong challenge for RWC 2015. Martin Johnson (MJ) could remain as long as some quality fresh coaches, not "yes men" are brought in. Realistically what chance is there of all this happening? I read about the current attempts by the clubs to get Thomas to stand down and it is clear he won't be going voluntarily.
Nick Fallowfield, England

Hi Tim and Nick, it is quite unbelievable to see and hear what's going on within the RFU, but I guess it should be expected given that the important decisions are made by amateurs [the RFU Council] and not professionals. It's ludicrous in this day and age, and with the size of the business, that it's not left to powerful businessmen to run the RFU in a manner that a business generating over £100m in revenue should be.

I would recruit a captain of industry as CEO and hope that he would put in place a director of rugby to run and be accountable for everything to do with playing the game of rugby. My worry would be that the people appointing the CEO seem to have lost the plot and put their self-importance ahead of the game. The England team is the shop window of English rugby and everyone at the RFU should understand that and come together to make sure we have the best of the best.

Scotland have backed Andy Robinson to the max and it wouldn't look good to throw him to the wolves - he will be given the Six Nations and if Scotland have a disaster I'm sure his position will be reviewed then

Surely Harlequins' luck at finding themselves the top of the league will stop now Northampton and Leicester have their World Cup stars back?
Sam Shepard

Hi Sam, Quins are on a roll. Winning becomes infectious and I can't see them being overhauled immediately. They only have to play Saints away and Tigers at home, so losing points in those games only brings those two teams four or five points closer. Quins have an 18 point lead over Tigers and 16 point advantage over Northampton, so that's a nice buffer. They will need a bad run of form to slip out of the top four before the end of the season.

Hi Jeremy, despite Sale's shocking second half performance against the Tigers on Friday they still lie third in the table. Do you think that with their World Cup players back this is going to help or hinder a team that has been performing above expectations? Or do you think they can continue to perform and push on for a top six spot? Cheers.
Dave, UK

Hi Dave, Sharks are out to make a mark this season and I have no doubt that director of sport Steve Diamond will want them playing in the Heineken Cup next season. It looks like England loose-head Andrew Sheridan will be out for a while, which is a big loss, and Mark Cueto won't have much influence on the wing, but his experience will be invaluable to the squad.

Personally I believe Sharks will do well to make the top six at the end of the season, if they can make Edgeley Park a fortress they stand a chance but they must win their fair share of away games if they are to make the top six.

With Lewis Moody retiring, James Haskell deciding to spread his brand to Japan next year and Quins flying high, do you think the criminally overlooked Chris Robshaw will finally get a shout at an England spot in the Six Nations?
Joe, UK

Hi Joe, Robshaw is getting his fair share of plaudits and has done for some time now - if he continues to impress he has to be a contender. Personally I think Tom Wood and Tom Croft are ahead of him for the flanker spots but he could possibly get a chance at number eight.

Hi Jerry, what's happened to James Hook? We all expected big things from him during the Rugby World Cup but he seems to have lost form. Do you think it's because he has not been given a settled starting position - 10 or 12?
Graham Musto,UK

Hi Graham, I believe you're right but that should change now he's at Perpignan and playing regularly at 10. It's not going to be easy for him to evict Priestland but it's good news for Wales having two star number 10s fighting for one place at fly-half. Before the World Cup Hook was a player that couldn't be left out of the backline but with everyone now playing well he's not the stand-out player any more. Leigh Halfpenny is prone to injury and Lee Byrne isn't what he was, so Hook's always got a sniff at the full-back jersey.

Jeremy, after a bitterly frustrating World Cup, do you believe Andy Robinson (AR) is the best person to take Scotland forward?
Leo Maxwell, Scotland

Hi Leo, Scotland have backed Andy Robinson to the max and it wouldn't look good to throw him to the wolves. AR will be given the Six Nations and if Scotland have a disaster I'm sure his position will then be reviewed.

Hi Jeremy, do you think that Italian rugby is finally on the up or was Treviso's 50-24 win against the Dragons a one off?

Treviso celebrate winning at Glasgow
Treviso lie fifth in the Pro 12 table with four wins from seven

Hi Jeremy, are you as pleased as I am to see the huge strides forward that the Italian sides in the Pro12 have made, and do you think this year's Six Nations will be the hardest to predict week by week compared to any other in recent memory?
Jim, Wales

Hi Marco and Jim, it is very pleasing to see Treviso and Aironi playing well and competing, the signs were there last season that they would be better. Italy have only two home games in next year's Six Nations, against England and Scotland. They have beaten Scotland before so will be confident about that one. Last time they played England at home they narrowly lost 17-12, so again they won't be overly worried about the opposition. On current form the Six Nations will be fought out between Wales, Ireland and France.

How much truth do you think there is in France number eight Imanol Harinordoquy's comments about coach Marc Lievremont (ML) being "lost" during the latter stages of the World Cup, and have you ever played in a team that has had no respect for their coach?
AJ, England

Hi AJ, I never played in a team where I thought the coach had lost his way or didn't believe in what he wanted from his players and team. I have to believe what Harinordoquy has said as he was there and saw and heard it first hand. The bottom line is, ML will be remembered as the coach that selected 82 French players during his reign but still got France to the final of the 2011 RWC.

Hi Jeremy, shortly after the RWC I heard on Radio 2 news that the French team had been fined for advancing towards the All Blacks during the haka. While the haka is a great spectacle it's got nothing to do with rugby and fining a team for "accepting the challenge" seems to send out the wrong message. I think most viewers thought the advancing V was proof that the French had turned up and it was not going to be quite as easy as a lot of people thought! What is your view?
Sean Paternotte, UK

Hi Sean, after putting in rules regarding how teams take up the challenge of the haka, the IRB left themselves no option but to fine the French team for advancing past their 10m line. Personally I thought it was great and the IRB now need to re-think the guidelines for a team facing the haka.

Follow Jerry on Twitter: @JeremyGuscott

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see also
RFU chief has to go, says Cooke
30 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Williams confirms Wales swan song
30 Oct 11 |  Welsh
Harlequins 19-13 Exeter
29 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 17-19 Saracens
29 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Northampton 44-15 Newcastle
29 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
London Irish 12-13 Bath
29 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Sale 13-34 Leicester
28 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Worcester 12-14 Wasps
28 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Glasgow Warriors 28-17 Ospreys
30 Oct 11 |  Rugby Union
Scarlets 24-17 Ulster
30 Oct 11 |  Scarlets
Edinburgh 28-36 Leinster
28 Oct 11 |  Leinster
Munster 18-6 Aironi
28 Oct 11 |  Munster
Treviso 50-24 NG Dragons
30 Oct 11 |  NG Dragons
Connacht 20-26 Cardiff Blues
30 Oct 11 |  Cardiff Blues

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