Jeremy Guscott's Six Nations Q&A
Among the topics Jerry discusses this week are:
- Wales' chances of defending their Six Nations crown
- Whether it is right to continue league matches during international weekends
- Ireland's possible front row
- The young players that will come to the fore in the Six Nations
- Stuart Lancaster's biggest selection headache
Jerry answers questions posted on the website at the start of every week - entries are now closed for this Q&A. This week's answers appear below.
Scotland still appear to be debating their captain for the Six Nations campaign. Who do you think will lead the team in the tough campaign ahead? Most candidates are in areas of high competition such as Kelly Brown in the back row, Al Kellock in the second row or even Greg Laidlaw whichever position he is played at. Midas_Child
Kelly Brown has been named as captain against England and Scott Johnson has named a couple of vice-captains (scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and prop Roddy Grant). That sounds a bit Australian to me but hey ho, it might make a difference. Brown comes from a winning team and plays against the English players most weeks and wins for Saracens. It's a good choice picking a player from a top performing side, despite it being English.
After a poor autumn, do you think Wales can raise their game for the defence of their Six Nations crown? Personally I think fourth is the best Wales can hope for on current form. WelshSteve
For me the Welsh team, despite the injuries, has a lot of talent and not enough belief, and they are only one win away from being inspired in the right way. It's difficult to get that belief when pretty much everything to do with rugby in Wales isn't that positive: players leaving for big salaries away from Wales, regions struggling big time on and off the field, in-fighting between the regions and the WRU. Despite all that, when I look at the talent - Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Justin Tipuric, Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton, Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar, James Hook, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert - I can't see many poor players there.
Hi Jeremy, what do you think Ireland's front row will be like this year? With the weakness at tight-head so dramatically exposed against England last year, do you reckon the inclusion of Michael Bent in the squad will help amend this? I can't help but worry it won't, as he had a terrible game against the England Saxons last week. Chris
Hi Chris, if it was just a battle between the front rows, Ireland could do well but it's the power and unity of eight that matters at scrum time with the hit being so important. Bent made his name as being a good scrummager for the Hurricanes but that's a different type of rugby down there in the southern hemisphere. Australia have a reputation for being average scrummagers but they survive, Ireland have that reputation but look at how well Munster, Leinster and Ulster have done in the last few seasons of the Heineken Cup. Why should they worry? Sometimes you put in a bad shift and you get hammered for it. It's up to Ireland's pack at scrum time to put it right.
How big a loss is Manu Tuilagi for England in the first match? And if he is a big loss, how do you rate Scotland's chances? Rugby4ever
Tuilagi is a huge loss to England because in the autumn he was the main attacking source, he made the most metres, scored the most tries and off-loaded more than anyone else in the team; that's hard to replace. Scotland will be different under Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan. Expect a more pragmatic approach, more kick-and-chase, not so much running possession in their own half, with a greater killer instinct when it comes to converting pressure into points. I still think it will be incredibly hard for Scotland to win at Twickenham, particularly after the last results of the two respective teams (England beating New Zealand, Scotland losing to Tonga). Scotland haven't won there for 30 years, and have won only four away matches out of 33 since it became the Six Nations - and only two in the last 10 years. (one in Dublin in 2010, one in Rome in 2006). England have won 26 of their 32 Six Nations matches at Twickenham.
Is it right to continue league matches during international weekends? With the autumn Tests and Six Nations, sides face almost a quarter of the games without their internationals. OnlyJoeQuin
This is a discussion that is ongoing and will continue, especially amongst those supporters whose clubs are hit with losing players to international call-ups. I understand games have to be played at these times to complete the season in time. The new play-off system helps compensate those teams that lose players, but it's still not fair on the season ticket holders that want to see their best players play in all the games. All this will take us back to the global season debate and we've been here before.
Which young players do you think will rise to the occasion of the Six Nations and put in man-of-the-match type performances? Aong-uls
England lock Joe Launchbury is fast making a name for himself. He's very understated and goes about his work on the field with great intensity and skill. It's not very often you can say that about locks.
Maxime Machenaud is the new France scrum-half competing with Morgan Parra for the starting place. They are both 24 - that just about qualifies for young in rugby years! Machenaud is more of a runner, stocky and powerful in build, but both are ones to watch.
Italy centre Tommaso Benvenuti is only 22 and is one to watch. He has good pace and an eye for a gap.
Full-back Stuart Hogg is only 20 and has a bright future if Scotland can utilise his speed and skill.
Wing Craig Gilroy is the up-and-coming name in Ireland and has made the team for the first game against Wales.
Wales number eight Toby Faletau is still only 22. What a player, he will have a big impact in this year's championship.
How does the standard of 'Super 15' rugby compare to the Six Nations, and also, does the 'Super 15' hold the key to the All Blacks being so good - because it is the level immediately under their international level? Douglas
The skill level of the Super 15 would be of a higher level but the circumstances and conditions under which they play are totally different, particularly before the play-off stage. Personally I don't think it's been the main reason for New Zealand's success. I believe their success comes from their coaching of young New Zealanders who are taught the skills and techniques that stay with them throughout their rugby careers.
Super 15 can't compete on any other level. Everything about the Six Nations is super-sized in comparison: tradition, history, revenue, crowds, global TV audience, sponsors, global appeal, grass roots initiatives...the list goes on.
What do you think are going to be Stuart Lancaster's biggest selection headaches? Personally I think Twelvetrees/Joseph and Wood/Croft are the big ones. Charlie
I think you're right with the centre headache now Manu Tuilagi is out. If he went for Billy Twelvetrees it would surprise me but I'd be pleased. Jonathan Joseph would be another pleasing selection. If he goes for Toby Flood at 10 or 12, I don't see where England have maintained an edge in defence or attack. Joe Marler or Mako Vunipola at loose-head prop must be close. And three from five - Alex Goode, Mike Brown, Chris Ashton, David Strettle and Ben Foden -in the back three isn't easy. And then Tom Youngs or Dylan Hartley at hooker. It is difficult to drop any player who played in the last match against New Zealand.
Hi Jerry, with the exodus of young talent from London Irish and Wasps, are we seeing the emergence of an elite group of clubs at the top of the Premiership destined to cherry-pick the brightest and best from the rest of the Premiership? The Holy Hooker
Just like football, in rugby there will be big or super clubs who have the financial clout to acquire the better players. At the moment the salary cap is supposed to be making it a level playing field but players who want to win titles and trophies will naturally migrate to the clubs that win more often than not. When the salary cap is lifted, the clubs with the biggest turnover and/or the richest owners will come more into play. We've had elite clubs for many years; they're the successful ones. Some come and go like Newcastle did many years ago, some stay like Saracens and Harlequins. There are some that want to be like Northampton and others that have been before, and want to get back, like Bath and Gloucester. One has been around for ever it seems and that's Leicester. Wasps were once a super club in terms of winning trophies but never developed off the field to match that period of glory, hence their current position. Until London Irish start winning they are always likely to lose their better players to clubs that have more success.
Do you think that Billy Vunipola should be fast tracked into the England Test XV based on his performances in his career to date? WhiteOrcs
A back row of Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola would be incredibly competitive!
Hi Jerry, Do you think it's time that the Six Nations operated the bonus point system in line with all other major competitions? Andy Sarratt
I don't agree with the bonus point system for the Six Nations because you could have a scenario of one team finishing higher than one actually winning the Grand Slam and that's weird.
In 2007, had bonus points been around, Ireland would have won the championship rather than France.
In 2002 with bonus points, England and France would have finished on the same points - 21 - but France beat everyone, winning a Grand Slam.