Six Nations: Jeremy Guscott Q&A
Among the topics the former England and Lions centre discusses this week are:
- Whether Stuart Lancaster has done enough to be appointed permanent England coach.
- The reasons for Wales' recent success, and if they can go to complete a Grand Slam.
- Whether Ireland have the right balance in their back row
- Can England continue their progression by beating the French in Paris?
Jerry will answer as many of your questions as possible each week but not every question submitted can be used. This week's answers appear below.
Sam Warburton says Wales need to be more ruthless against France but do you think France even have a chance to win the match against the Welsh? The match is at the Millenium Stadium and all anyone will think about is the Rugby World Cup semi between France and Wales. Who do you think will win and why?Moses, England
Hi Moses, France haven't played particularly well so far and we shouldn't be surprised given they are under a new coach and the players are feeling their way with the management. Past results shouldn't come into play. Wales are playing well, have won the previous two Grand Slams in games at home, and I don't expect anything different.
In my opinion this French team has not lived up to the pre-tournament hype. Given England's impressive defensive performances so far, especially against a very strong attacking Welsh side, what do you think are England's chances of causing an upset in Paris?Jack, England
Hi Jack, given both teams' last performances I'm not convinced it would be an upset if England won the game in Paris. The danger for England is that this French team have yet to hit their straps and should it happen on Sunday, they would be difficult to beat. If England have got over the defeat against Wales and Lancaster has prepared his team well there is no reason why they can't win playing in a similar fashion as they did against Wales without the small errors. Personally I believe England will win in Paris.
England supporters are saying that Chris Ashton's work rate has dropped. David Strettle however hasn't been lighting up the stage for England. Are England not moving the ball quick enough or are the wingers not looking for work? Seb, UK
Hi Seb, Ashton has scored a lot of his tries by supporting breaks made by his team-mates; there haven't been many clear breaks so far and that's why we haven't seen the best of Ashton. I would like to see England use Manu Tuilagi or Brad Barritt like Wales do George North from quick penalties. They should tap and go using either Barritt or Tuilagi and have Ashton in support. Also they need to give their wingers an earlier touch of the ball and, to be fair, both of them could look more for the ball.
The RFU have been trying to develop a successful England coach and have failed. Do you think it's time to employ an experienced international manager? With three years to the World Cup, experiments with unknown English coaches like Stuart Lancaster should stop. If Lancaster gets the job why did we sack MJ? John Butt, England
Hi John, It looks very much like Nick Mallett will get the job because of his record and international coaching experience. There is little doubt in my mind that Lancaster has done a terrific job getting this current squad to bond and start to play rugby again. Lancaster does have a very clear idea of how he wants his team to play and how he's going to continue to improve his side. I don't think he should be written off. Clive Woodward came from very little experience and obscurity to build a World Cup-winning team. The reality is that Martin Johnson shouldn't have been given the job in the first place because he didn't have the CV to do the job; that's not his fault, it's the fault of the people who employed him.
The England team seem to be progressing really well with Stuart Lancaster in charge; what do think he has changed/done to bring about the improvement and do you think he would be a good permanent appointment? Andrea Smith, England
Hi Andrea, I think Lancaster has instilled a no-nonsense environment which means when you are with England, the players train hard and get things right. When you are away from England you behave in the manner befitting an England international. In short he appears to be creating a squad that has leadership and responsibility - values which mean you covert the shirt you wear and understand what it means to be the owner of that shirt and never forget it. From what I've been told from my BBC colleagues, the press days are a lot more enjoyable and less restrictive than they used to be. Judging Lancaster on what I've seen so far, he would have a good crack at the role permanently, but I do think Nick Mallett is favourite to win the job because of his CV.
Having watched the same Irish back row for the past six months, I just don't believe the balance is right and with the lack of a specialised seven, the back-line is suffering from slow ball. Heaslip, O'Brien and Ferris are all great individuals but don't work together. Would you make a change if you were Declan Kidney? Kev, Ireland
Hi Kev, I agree to a point. David Wallace was a great open-side and brought a better balance to the back row. Kidney's problem is that he has three outstanding players. Heaslip is an out-and-out eight, Ferris and O'Brien are better at six, but O'Brien is a makeshift seven. At its best this trio is incredibly powerful and destructive, they carry the ball well and in the main do a great job. I'm not sure there's a better player than O'Brien to play open-side for Ireland, and Kidney would rather have these three on the field.
What are your thoughts on Jonny Sexton. He showed up hugely from a defensive point of view on Sunday and we all know he can get a backline moving. Is it just his game management skills that might be lacking? I still think he's favourite to be the Lions number 10 next summer. Peter O'Connor, Ireland
Hi Peter, I admire your support of Sexton but he's got some tough competition for that Lions' 10 jersey. The problem for Sexton is being able to perform consistently well. When you've seen his best it's hard to accept a performance below that. So far he's played reasonably well but not so well that everyone has forgotten about Ronan O'Gara. I don't think he can close a game like O'Gara at his best can. He's got time on his side and a good performance against Scotland would be useful for him and Ireland.
A lot has been said about France's extremely deep attack. Could this have been to tire the Irish rush defence by making them run further? I'm at a loss why France didn't take more opportunities to counter this blitz by chipping the ball behind the Irish players. As a back, how difficult is it to deal with such a defence? Lloyd, Wales
Hi Lloyd, the deeper the attack stands the easier it is to defend, it's good to have a couple of deep runners coming from behind a flatter attack because defenders can't always see them coming. The French backline is a law unto itself and generally functions well but they haven't found their sweet-spot as yet. The deep line wasn't to tire out the Irish defence, and their ability not to spot a rush defence and chip over the top was disappointing. Dealing with a rush defence requires accurate and timed passing with runners choosing good lines to avoid an interception or a man-and-ball tackle. A kick over the top or a grubber will make the defence think more about exposing themselves with a blitz.
Why are the standards of passing and the ability to draw and pass so terrible in English rugby. I learned to do these things in under 9s. Take Mike Brown at the end of the Wales game - he didn't even half draw the cover defenders before shipping the ball on to Strettle. You probably would have dummied the pass and gone over by the sticks! George, England
Hi George, thanks for your confidence in the old me! The lack of passing accuracy is born from the playing style of most teams in the Premiership where the priority is to get over the gainline in the shortest and quickest way. To be fair to Brown, Quins have been one of the better teams in looking to run and pass the ball rather than batter the opposition into submission. Look at Leinster - it has been their ambition to be the best passers of the ball in Europe and it's working. When teams in the Premiership learn the Leinster approach works, we will see more accurate passing and drawing of defenders.
How much of Wales' recent success can you attribute to their new training regime or is it largely a case of pure natural talent? Luke, Wales
Hi Luke, very hard question to answer. I would say a lot has to do with natural talent because most of the players' development has happened before they become internationals. The national coaches need time to fine-tune their squad and if you think about how much the Welsh squad has been together since last May, they've had the time to get into their groove.
Every week we read of another player, mostly from Wales at the moment, heading to play in France. It's reminiscent of the years when English clubs seemed full of players from the southern hemisphere feathering their retirement nests. If you were in charge, what primary thing would you put in place to nurture rugby at home? Steve, Bournemouth
Hi Steve, There are a number of changes needed but primarily to improve the English national team, you need to allow the Premiership teams to develop their players. That is unlikely to happen whilst there is relegation because the emphasis is on winning and not player development. The salary cap would be right up there on the agenda too!
I recently have achieved a bit of notoriety after scoring two successive hat tricks; how do you keep yourself grounded when you are successful? Dale, England
Hi Dale, without doubt your team-mates will keep you grounded. You won't always be scoring hat-tricks so enjoy the run while it lasts and keep in mind who gave you those opportunities to score.
Are Wasps safe now - eight points from relegation with five games to go? Or do you expect the final-round match with Newcastle to be a relegation dogfight? Eric, England
Hi Eric, yes I believe Wasps are safe from relegation but that's easy for me to say, sat here answering questions. Wasps have an eight-point advantage and I can't see Falcons making that up with five games left.
In Leicester's impressive win over Gloucester do you think we saw some glimpses of the Ben Youngs from a couple of years ago? Jack, England
Hi Jack, Youngs played so well and we had an insight to how good a player he can be. He didn't crab across against Gloucester, he just got rid of the ball, which he hasn't been doing for England.
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