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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

Jim Mallinder
Jerry believes Jim Mallinder is the best option to be England's new boss

Former England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott is on hand to answer your questions after another dramatic week on and off the field.

Among the topics Jerry discusses this week are:

- Who should replace Martin Johnson as England boss

- Which youngsters he believes are knocking on the door to play centre for England

- His views on whether Sir Clive Woodward will return to the RFU

- What he makes of rugby league star Sam Tomkins playing for the Barbarians

- Which Welsh side is most likely to scoop a European prize

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.


Hi Jeremy, given all the talk surrounding Martin Johnson's departure from the England set-up, what is your view on Rob Andrew's job? Should he go as well?
Baingana Sabiti, Uganda

Hi Baingana, hope all is well with you in Uganda. It's difficult to have a rubber stamped opinion on Rob Andrew (RA) because we don't entirely know what his job actually entails. Under short-lived former chief executive John Steele he had successfully applied for the operations director's job but now it appears that someone within the RFU has asked him to look after all things rugby (very bizarre).

To be fair to RA, Johnson wasn't his selection - it came from above. However, Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson were RA men and they didn't work out very well, so on that basis I don't think he should be given any responsibility in the selection process to find Johnson's successor. I don't see any harm in RA continuing within the RFU fulfilling the operational role, but keep him away from the rugby teams.

Dear Jeremy, who do you think should become the England team manager? Who are the contenders?
Jasper, England

Who would you like to see given the England manager's post, do you think it's time for a foreign coach?
Steve, UK

Hi Jerry, Mallinder is currently favourite to replace Martin Johnson as England manager/head coach. However, is he the right man for the job?
Phil, England

Hi Jasper and Steve, in my opinion, given that Nick Mallett has ruled himself out (he was my pick) I would now go with Jim Mallinder as the new head coach. Look at when Sir Clive Woodward first got the England job, he had very little experience - Mallinder has more experience and a good knowledge of the England players and European rugby.

Mallinder would need to surround himself with what he considers to be the best coaches, ones that get the best out of the players but also challenge him. A manager to help with the bigger picture will be essential.

Whoever the new England manager is, they'll have four years to build a team for the next World Cup. What players would you like to see brought into the squad, especially fly-half and inside centre? And who would be your captain?
Nick M, England

Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi could conceivebaly play inside or outside centre for England

Hi Nick, I would look at players in form and not so much the players that have the experience. There has to be a real sea change in selection and coaching for England. Any of the English-qualifed centres playing have an opportunity because Manu Tuilagi is not settled with England at 12 or 13.

For instance, if Saracens' Brad Barritt breaks clear of the pack and becomes the stand-out centre he's very similar to Tuilagi, so I would play Tuilagi at 13 for his bigger threat in attack.

If Gloucester's Henry Trinder was picked I'd play Tuilagi at 12 because Trinder is quicker. If they go with Saracens' Owen Farrell he should play inside, because he can kick well and is more creative than the others. We don't yet have a handle on what the squad is going to look like when it gets together in the New Year, with Stuart Lancaster looking set to be temporary coach.

My philosophy for captain selection has always been pick your team, then your captain. Within the last team to play for England there weren't that many stand-out leaders. Depending on who makes the line-up against Scotland I would go with the likes of either Tom Croft, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw or Toby Flood.

Hi, it seems from the outside that the Rugby Football Union's upper management has not moved with the times. There may not be 57 old farts running the show now, but it's not far off. England need to sort themselves out sharpish. We have the biggest pool of players to pick from, it's a shambles. Would you agree?
Tony Smith, Australia

Hi Tony, I agree things need to improve rugby-wise. Financially the RFU is going from strength to strength, announcing a £8.7m profit out of revenues of £136.3m. However, the selection of the next head coach couldn't be more important for the future of the playing side.

Things have not been good on the pitch for a few years and the next head coach has the opportunity to bring English rugby back to the standards of the good days that ran from 1990 to 2003.

Dear Jerry, assuming that you were mad enough to say yes to becoming the next England manager, what is the first change you would make to the England set-up?
Charles Scudamore, UK

Hi Charles, to be fair you don't have to be completely mad, it's a challenging role but should be such a brilliant job to have. I would make sure I took the job on my terms; namely I pick the team and the coaches. I'd also make sure who I'm answerable to and if it wasn't the CEO it would have to be someone I respected and I believed backed me.

Hi Jeremy, reading Sir Clive Woodward's article in the Sunday Times it seems clear he is positioning himself as the man to head up elite rugby in England.

My question is, considering what a weak position the RFU have worked themselves into, how can they possibly justify turning down Woodward (this time around) if he applies for said position?
Lawrie Morrison, Netherlands

Hi Lawrie, I think Woodward is just making his thoughts and opinions public knowledge, for a long time he has been asked his opinions but has declined while Johnno was in place. His opinions make interesting reading, he's not necessarily right but it's interesting. I'm not sure that Woodward wants to go back to the RFU in any capacity.

Firstly the Union has to get a CEO in place, then everything else can be sorted out with he or she at the helm. Without doubt Woodward's experience and knowledge would be invaluable and if there was an elite performance director's role at the RFU Woodward would be the best person for the role. However, people have been questioning Rob Andrew and his role - the same could be said potentially about Woodward.

What are your thoughts on Sam Tomkins being included in the Baa-Baas squad, and how does rugby league manage to regularly produce so many good youngsters from such a small player base compared to our union set-up? Is there something we can learn from this?
Andy, England

Sam Tomkins in action in the win over New Zealand in the Four Nations
Tomkins has the skill set to shine for the Barbarians on Saturday

What are your thoughts on the chances of Sam Tomkins playing a one-off game of union with the Baa-Baas considering he has just signed a deal agreeing not to talk to rugby union clubs for three years?
Paul Mortimer, England

I think it's great that the Baa Baas have included him and will be very interested to see how it all pans out for him. Playing full-back, wing or outside centre shouldn't present too much of a problem for him given his skill set.

It is very interesting that RL seems to be able to produce younger players to play first class RL and that union struggles. One reason might be that the forward element in union, with proper scrummaging, rucks and mauls, is a lot more physical and technical and a lot of players haven't physically matured enough to compete with their older, stronger foes.

What do you think about the strength of the Irish teams and the possibility of Ulster, Munster and Leinster all reaching the quarter-finals? Does this show their current domination of the competition (considering three of the last four winners have been Irish)? And what does that mean internationally?
Conan Hoey

Hi Conan, at this early stage Munster have shown great tenacity with the match-saving, last-minute O'Gara drop-goals. If they beat Scarlets away next round they would be favourites to go through from their group.

Ulster have been good value, but to secure knock-out rugby they will need to beat Aironi twice with bonus points and then beat Tigers and Clermont. Leinster will definitely get there, they look too strong not to.

Performances in the Heineken Cup aren't generally that good an indicator as to whether the national team of those clubs/regions will play well. Ireland will be without talisman Brian O'Driscoll this year and it will be interesting to watch how their campaign unfolds.

Harlequins have had as good a start to a season as you could hope for and with a relatively easy game at home to Newcastle on Sunday, you'd say they should be extending their unbeaten run to 13 games this season.

When do you think this run will end? And how much longer will it have to go on for people to drop the 'it's only because of the World Cup' references that keep cropping up?
Joe, UK

Jerry, when will you stop writing Quins and Chris Robshaw off? Surely 12 from 12 and thumping Gloucester at the weekend shows it wasn't just the World Cup effect? What do you think of our other young English-qualified players' chances of making a new start for England? Joe Marler? George Lowe? Jordan Turner-Hall? George Robson? Joe Gray? I could go on.
Joe Champion, England

Hi Joe and Joe, please get over me writing my opinion about Robshaw and take it objectively. I've said in the past he's no better than what's playing for England either then or now, but this season, because of his performances, he's put himself in the frame for selection. I still think he's unlikely to be selected because in MY opinion he's not better than Wood or Croft.

Quins have been playing well, but they've got a tough December with Sarries, Wasps and Exeter. In the New Year you will get a good idea about how good this Quins side is when they play Saints away from home.

If Quins win at Franklin's Gardens I would have to say they are serious contenders to win the Premiership title, if they lose then they would have to finish in the top two to get home advantage to make it to the final. All the players you mention have a good chance of getting selected.

Edinburgh's comeback from 47-23 down against Racing Metro to win 48-47 was the best in Heineken Cup history. Do you think they now push on in the competition and qualify for the quarter-finals?
Scott Ford, Scotland

Tim Visser's late try gave Edinburgh a dramatic victory at the weekend
Tim Visser's late try gave Edinburgh a dramatic victory at the weekend

Hi Scott, the crunch for Edinburgh happens on 9 December in Cardiff, if they win that one they could be looking at making the quarter-finals.

Welsh teams currently have seven wins and one draw from eight European matches. In your opinion is this the 'positive fall out' from the RWC performance or, to put it bluntly, about flippin' time?

Also, if I gave you a tenner and asked you to place a bet on the Welsh team most likely to bring home a Euro trophy, which one would you put the cash on and why?
Craig Jones, Wales

Hi Craig, without doubt I believe it's the positive vibe brought back to their regions by Welsh players who went to the Rugby World Cup that has helped fire them into action. I believe Ospreys are in a hard group to get out of and the draw against Treviso was a massive set-back.

Scarlets are playing top rugby but I would be worried about their pack in the latter stages. My tenner would go on Cardiff Blues. I think they can win their pool and get home advantage in the knockout stages, which will be crucial. If any Welsh region from the Heineken Cup goes into the Amlin Challenge Cup they would be one of the favourites to win it (as the Blues did in 2010).

Not much was made of Ronan O'Gara's poise in the closing minutes of last week's game but he showed again this week why he is the only man (2003 Jonny Wilkinson aside) who you would want to step up to take a drop-kick to win a game?

I can't think of any player past or present who has kicked so many important drop-goals in the closing stages of matches. Is too little made of both the courage and poise he shows to step up when it matters??
Dave Bryne, Ireland

Hi Dave, I believe O'Gara gets well-deserved praise from all corners when he knocks over last-minute drop-goals or penalties. He's got his critics - I've been one on a couple of occasions and I believe that criticism was right at the time - but everyone in rugby knows he's a class act.

Follow Jerry on Twitter: @JeremyGuscott



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see also
England 'not a reality' for Henry
21 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
RFU announces record 8.7m profit
21 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Woodward warns RFU on new coach
21 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Gloucester 9-28 Harlequins
20 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Edinburgh 48-47 Racing Metro 92
19 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
RFU let Johnson down - Woodward
18 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Mallett out of England contention
17 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Johnson quits as England manager
17 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Reaction to Martin Johnson's resignation
16 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
01 Nov 11 |  Rugby Union


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