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Jeremy Guscott Q&A

Leicester's Alesana Tuilagi (left) and Northampton's Tom Wood were both sent off after a mass brawl
Leicester's Tuilagi (left) and Northampton's Wood were both sent off on Saturday

Former England and Lions centre Jeremy Guscott answers your questions after another hard-fought weekend of rugby union action.

Among the topics Jerry discusses this week are:

- Chris Ashton's actions, which sparked a mass brawl and two red cards in Leicester's win over Northampton

- Whether he's going to stop betting against unbeaten leaders Harlequins in his Premiership predictions

- What Bath need to do to turn their season around

- His view on England's women beating world champions New Zealand in their series

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

Jerry, Chris Ashton had already got away with what looked like a late hit on Geordan Murphy when he pulled Alesana Tuilagi into touch by his hair in Northampton's defeat by Leicester in the Premiership.

As this is a tackle made above the shoulder, should he not have been yellow carded for it?
Jonathan Wheeler, UK

Hi Jonathan, I wouldn't say the initial tackle on Tuilagi was high but judging by the pictures I saw Ashton did unwisely grab hold of Tuilagi's hair to drag him into touch. Tuilagi reacted, which was the wrong thing to do, and from there it became a bit of a free for all.

Ashton should know better and it's hard to think of any mitigating circumstance for his actions. Had that event been in isolation I believe Leicester would have received a penalty and Ashton may have been yellow carded. That didn't happen.

It evolved into Tuilagi keeping hold of Ashton over the touchline and fellow Leicester winger Horacio Agulla steaming in, with Courtney Lawes trying to help Ashton, plus Geordan Murphy, Tom Wood and others joining the gathering.

The next three games might see me go against the Quins as well, with Sarries at home and then Exeter and Saints away?! As long as I keep getting it wrong you will be happy!

Jerry on betting against unbeaten Premiership leaders Harlequins in his weekly predictions

As a Northampton fan, do you think the red cards influenced the outcome of the match, with Northampton playing with an extra back and Leicester the opposite. Do you also think the referee made the right decision, or would yellow cards have been more appropriate?
Ed Orr-Ewing, United Kingdom

Hi Ed, personally I would have an extra forward rather than a three-quarter because generally the match is decided up front. Referee Wayne Barnes acted on what he had seen and I would imagine he listened to his assistant referee.

Without doubt it changed the balance of the game and gave the advantage to Leicester with the extra forward. By the letter of the law it was right. However, Barnes could have yellow carded them to cool off.

How can such a good game of rugby be decided by cheating? The Leicester captain deliberately took out the Saints covering tackler, Ben Foden, off the ball to allow Agulla to score the winning try. It was not picked up by the match officials and according to the reports this cannot be cited.

The commentators said it was good play because he didn't get caught yet I feel the match was won dishonourably - what do you think? Do the means justify the ends?
Howard Smith, UK

Hi Howard, this incident happened right in front of Barnes and the assistant referee. Both must have been ball-watching to miss the shoulder barge on Foden. These sorts of events tend to even themselves out over the season, you get some decisions, you don't get others. As hard as it may seem at the time, there will be an occasion later in the season that goes Saints' way that maybe shouldn't.

Jeremy, why is it you continue to pick other teams to beat Harlequins when they keep proving you wrong each week?
Doug, USA

Hi Doug, I genuinely thought Wasps had a good chance of beating Quins at home and in fairness they had enough possession and territory in the first half to score more points than they did. At half-time it was only 7-6 to Quins and at full-time Wasps only lost by six points, that's a reasonably close match.

The next three games might see me go against the Quins as well, with Sarries at home and then Exeter and Saints away?! As long as I keep getting it wrong you will be happy!

Versatile Australia back James O'Connor
O'Connor has impressed across the backline for Australia

With James O'Connor putting in a fantastic performance for the Wallabies at 10 against Wales, do you think he can push Quade Cooper and make the 10 jersey his own, with Cooper moving possibly to 12/13 to make use of his distribution skills and take the pressure off the other patchy areas of his game?
Daniel, Lancs, UK

Hi Daniel, while O'Connor has played well in Australia's last two games it's hard to write off Cooper as their best option at 10. Cooper isn't the best defender and would be further exposed at 12 or 13 so that's really not an option. Cooper did have a miserable World Cup but let's not forget how well he played through most of the Super XV season and some of the Tri-Nations.

Shane Williams scored a try in the 80th minute on his last game for Wales. Do you think he really is the last of his kind as the bigger and more physical wingers take over the game?
Will Clothier, England

Hi Will, I don't think he is the last of his kind; you only had to look on the other side of the field in the opposition team and see Digby Ioane to understand there is still a place for the smaller, quicker and more skilful player. Even Shane's physique has changed over the years, he looks more powerful now that he did on his debut in 2000.

I've mentioned before there are a number of smaller/lighter players, in rugby terms, who look totally at ease playing international rugby. Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Ben Youngs, Dan Carter, Will Genia, Israel Dagg and Vincent Clerc spring to mind immediately, and there are plenty more.

Where do you see Wales' options lying in the second row for the Six Nations after Luke Charteris was ruled out and with Alun Wyn Jones potentially joining him? Can this be somewhat offset by the performance of Ian Evans on Saturday after a number of years out through with serious injuries?
Nick, UK

Hi Nick, there's still Bradley Davies and Ian Evans, while Jonathan Thomas or Ryan Jones could also be an option. Although the loss of Wyn Jones and Charteris will be hard to replace, the players given the chance often step in and have good games. It's certainly an opportunity for someone just outside the 1st XV to make a name for themselves during the Six Nations. It's got to be seen as an opportunity and not a negative.

What is happening to Bath? Saturday's loss at home to Sale was poor, and despite strengthening with some experienced faces and youngsters, this season has so far been nothing short of terrible and doesn't look to be getting better, much like previous seasons.

Any exciting attacking play seems to be non-existent now, what do you think is the reason behind all this? Is it the players, or has the appointment of Sir Ian McGeechan had a negative effect and is the loss of Steve Meehan going to cost us?
Hugh Walker, UK

Bath boss Sir Ian McGeechan
McGeechan may have to ask Bath to keep it simple for now

Bath supporter in France here. Simple question, do you think they have done the wrong thing by appointing McGeechan as he hasn't been massively successful, bar the Lions tours, in my opinion, and Steve Meehan was a young coach who got Bath playing attractive and effective rugby.
Luc, France

Hi Hugh and Luc, Bath have been indifferent this season because they haven't done the small, detailed things well, they keep on making silly mistakes that set you back. I watched the highlights and even at the end of the game when they were on the Sale tryline a lack of composure denied them a simple try. All Michael Claassens had to do was pass it out and there was a simple overlap which would have resulted in a try.

I'm sure new fly-half Stephen Donald will eventually have an impact but a team struggling will sometimes try and force things and make life even more difficult for themselves. Bath Lack a real hard edge up front and that's going to make for a tough season.

McGeechan and coach Brad Davies might be asking this side to play a bit too much when simplicity is probably the answer. They need a simple game plan which all players understand, but even that has to be executed well. They will get better, it can't get much worse.

Hi Jerry. Not since Jason Robinson have England had such a scintillating and exciting player as Wasps winger Christian Wade. If he continues his current form, do you see him getting a chance in the Six Nations and do you think he could provide the spark that England's back line needs?
Andy, Shrewsbury, England

Hi Andy, Wade is certainly making an impression in the Premiership but he's not alone. He on his own won't be able to set alight the England backline. England have to get the balance right with the inside backs and then the back three will have time and space.

Hi Jerry, do you agree with the RFU's stance to wait until after the Six Nations to appoint a permanent coach? If I believed in conspiracies, I would have said that was done to appoint Nick Mallett. So, is the appointment between him, Jim Mallinder, Jake White and Eddie Jones? Or could the interim coach end up with the job?
Anton, UK

Hi Anton, I certainly don't believe it's a bad idea for the RFU to wait until after the Six Nations to appoint a head coach to take England through to the 2015 World Cup. If some of the best are unavailable at this time it makes sense to wait. I also believe the CEO should have a big say in who takes over and he should have the time to assess all possibilities.

I have heard mentioned that whoever takes over in the interim will also have the opportunity to apply for the full-time position. I have said in previous Q&As that my choice would be Mallett but I believe Mallinder would be a good call as well. Mallett has the international experience and he is hot on discipline.

Mallinder knows the English players better than any other possible candidate and his lack of full international coaching experience - he had a spell in charge of the second-string Saxons - shouldn't prevent him getting the job, just as it didn't stop World Cup-winning boss Sir Clive Woodward.

Hi Jerry, to my mind the series victory over New Zealand by the English women's team is a wonderful achievement and a welcome boost to all rugby in this country. What are your thoughts?
Steve Conroy, UK

Hi Steve, England will be very pleased with the series win but would swap that I'm sure for a victory 12 months ago in the Women's Rugby World Cup final. The most pleasing aspect of the series win must be that coach Gary Street has blooded some youngsters who have stepped up and performed.

Follow Jerry on Twitter: @JeremyGuscott

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see also
Wales 18-24 Australia
05 Dec 11 |  Welsh
Stringer completes Saracens move
06 Dec 11 |  Saracens
Ashton given four-week ban by RFU
06 Dec 11 |  Northampton
Shane savours 'fantastic' ending
04 Dec 11 |  Welsh
England Women 8-8 NZ Women
04 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
Ospreys 19-13 Munster
04 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
Leinster 52-9 Cardiff Blues
04 Dec 11 |  Leinster
Ulster 24-17 Scarlets
04 Dec 11 |  Ulster
Thompson forced to retire again
03 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
England retain Dubai Sevens title
03 Dec 11 |  English
Interim coach in England running
03 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
Bath 13-16 Sale
03 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
Exeter 15-9 Worcester
03 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
Newcastle 26-25 Gloucester
03 Dec 11 |  Rugby Union
Edinburgh 50-10 Aironi
02 Dec 11 |  Edinburgh
Connacht 13-15 Benetton Treviso
02 Dec 11 |  Connacht

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