Jeremy Guscott Q&A: Owen Farrell and Jonathan Davies

By Jeremy GuscottRugby union analyst, BBC Sport
England's Owen Farrell (right) in action against Argentina

Among the topics Jerry addresses this week are:

- If England's attacking hesitancy is down to Owen Farrell

- If losing Jonathan Davies led to Wales' defeat

- Replacing players apparently for the sake of it

- Japan's chances of mixing it with the best

- Taking the positives, or preferably not

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.

Hi Jeremy, do you feel England's problems lie with the centres - Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins - or do you think fly-half Owen Farrell only has one game plan and is not creative enough to unleash our runners? On these two performances, do you think other number 10s might get a sniff at the shirt come the Six Nations? Edd Powell

Hi Edd, for me attacking is a mindset. You have to believe you're fit enough and have the tools as a team to get the job done. It's not solely on Farrell's shoulders how England attack, he's been selected to do a job.

Farrell's try against Australia and the set-up for wing Chris Ashton's against the Pumas tells me he's at least starting to think like an attacker.

The England team as a whole don't have clarity when it comes to attacking, which is disappointing. The intent in the first half against the Pumas was great, the forwards were good at getting the go-forward and quick ball, but there was some disconnect in execution by the backs.

England fight back to beat Australia

England seem to want to be in a certain position on the field before they feel it is right to attack. It is too planned - there are more opportunities out there but not the instinct and understanding by the players to take advantage of the situations. The backs ran too laterally and, by the time the ball got to the wider areas, there wasn't enough space to operate.

Farrell doesn't help by starting the crab across field from first receiver. By way of comparison, in the New Zealand v France game, the Kieran Read try was brilliant. The ball came reasonably quickly from the ruck, the players were all running from deep at pace and the hard run from Charles Piutau and the offload to Read was just quality.

The difference between New Zealand and England is that Read reacted to what Piutau did - they have that instinctive understanding. England need to find that kind of connection.

I would stick with Farrell for this game. He played against New Zealand last time and the backs went well. I would be seriously tempted to play centre Luther Burrell to straighten up England's attack and commit defenders, plus bring in Christian Wade on the wing for the spark and support play he offers.

Jerry, how much do you think the early injury to Jonathan Davies hindered Wales' game plan on Saturday? Despite the try Wales seemed composed up to that point, with Davies and Scott Williams causing problems for South Africa. Was it a case of no back-up plan, or were they just stunned their game plan had to change so early? Solemntom

Jonathan Davies clutches his chest after being injured on Saturday
Wales centre Davies will be out for several months after injuring his chest on Saturday

Jerry, Wales dominated the statistics against South Africa, but the Boks were just so clinical. Regardless of the "non-try" they still had two tries from two line breaks. Is it just as simple as Wales not being clinical enough to beat the southern hemisphere teams? We fronted up everywhere else and even stole a South Africa line-out! What do you think Wales need to be? More clinical, different players, tactics etc? JohnnyWal

Hi, not having a world-class player like Jonathan Davies on the field isn't going to help, for sure. He made two great breaks before going off and was proving to be Wales' best attacking threat. Davies going off wouldn't hinder the game plan too much, though.

You've got a different player on the field that does and thinks differently, but still plays to the plan, so I don't believe the result had anything to do with there being no back-up plan.

I don't know a team that has plan B, there's just attack and defend, more or less. Wales were well in the game at 17-15 down at 55 minutes, then Gethin Jenkins got sin-binned. In that time Fourie du Preez scored, although it was lucky for South Africa as an offside wasn't picked up.

During the second half Wales did make a number of unforced errors and throughout the game they didn't make the most of the opportunities they created.

I thought Wales eventually matched the physicality of the Boks and I believe their fitness is better than all bar New Zealand's. Like everyone trailing the All Blacks, Wales need to make better decisions. Get that right and I believe they have as good a game as anyone else out there.

Hi Jerry, with the England backs failing to impress in attack again I feel change is needed. Watching the game, the backs ran through some of their training-ground moves without going anywhere and most showed an inability to get their head up and play what is in front of them. Do you think England would benefit from adding another attack coach to work alongside Mike Catt, and if so, who? Real Rugby

Hi, I'm not 100% but I believe Andy Farrell looks after the backs and Mike Catt does the skills, so there is some overlap. I'm sure if Mike Catt was solely in charge of the backs we would see a bit more risk-taking than at present.

Making wholesale changes isn't the answer, you have to believe you've chosen the right players to do the job. Having said that I do feel an injection of directness is required in the backs and, as I said earlier, I would include Burrell and Wade.

It was encouraging to see the move that led to the Twelvetrees score against Argentina - Tomkins on the dummy run and if Ashton had been two yards wider, he would have been clean through. It's positive England are trying moves, they just need better accuracy.

Jerry, do you think the standard of the Pro12, as Warren Gatland says, is the reason for Wales' defeat? I am not convinced. These players have also been playing in the Heineken Cup, which is a step up, so it sounds like excuses to me. I will be very interested to see how Scotland and Ireland get on against South Africa and Australia this weekend. Perhaps that will give us a better idea. Erchie

Hi Erchie, it seems there is never a good time for the northern hemisphere teams to play the southern hemisphere sides. These games are either two months into the season or at the end, when the players have had a full season.

It's never easy scheduling these matches. I'm sure Wales would have done better if they'd had a game before facing the Boks, but someone has to play them first on the tour. It's true that South Africa were better prepared - they've just finished playing the Rugby Championship.

International coaches in the southern hemisphere are always wanting more time with their players but it's not going to happen any time soon. Wales could have won the game on Saturday with the circumstances as they are and I bet they could still lose a game like that had they played a match before.

It is what it is. I don't believe Warren Gatland was making excuses, more like saying how it could be better for teams in the northern hemisphere.

Hi Jerry, is there a more fired-up player in world rugby than Peter O'Mahony? Roarz

Hi Roarz, the Munster back row had a great all-round game for Ireland against Samoa - scoring, making a break and tackling his way through the game certainly had the desired effect.

Hi Jerry, A big part of a successful team is a great captain. With Wales and England trying to push to the "next level" their choices of captain couldn't be more different, but who's right? The humble guy looking at the "next massive hurdle"external-link or the one who believes his team are "too good"? Do you think England are missing a slightly more confident personality? The Academy

Sam Warburton and Chris Robshaw
Captains, such as Wales' Sam Warburton and England's Chris Robshaw, "have to be frontline picks"

Hi, captains generally pick themselves - within a group there will be a couple of outstanding candidates. The first criteria has to be he's on the team sheet because he's the best player in his position, not because he's your captain.

Both Wales' Sam Warburton and England's Chris Robshaw are frontline first picks for their coaches because they see them as the best in their positions.

I don't think personalities should be a huge factor, it's about the respect the captain has amongst his peers in the group. It's no good having someone who has confidence to speak in public but can't lead on the field. Warburton has had some up and down times, as has Robshaw.

I think they're both good players and hold a lot of respect within their own groups. I believe they are both modest individuals; neither has an over-egged ego from what I've seen and heard.

Why do the England management make changes between 50 and 60 minutes regardless of what's occurring on the pitch? First half, Lee Dickson played very well... subbed at 50. Dylan Hartley was the best player on the pitch... subbed at 60. Twelvetrees was going OK... subbed at 65. The All Blacks don't make unnecessary substitutions. All these players can play for 80 minutes. They must upset the team's performance? StandUpForTheSaracens

Hi StandUp ForTheSaracens, it's a mystery sometimes, and difficult to see from our positions watching, why the substitutions are made. It looks to me that some are made, as you say, regardless of how a player is doing, which is bewildering if they are playing well.

It doesn't make sense, but we are not privy to all information. I like the All Blacks system - it's old-fashioned, like a lot of their philosophies, and shows understanding of the game.

Hi Jerry, after their promising performance against Scotland at the weekend, how competitive do you think Japan can be in 2015, and also 2019 when they host the World Cup? JP

Scotland beat Japan in entertaining clash

Hi JP, the more Japan play better opposition the more they will improve, like Italy and Argentina have done - but there's a limit to how much of a beating you can take before it becomes counterproductive.

I would be surprised if Japan make the top eight before 2019 but I'm sure they will be more competitive than they currently are. They will learn a great deal about the game from the overseas players they import, that's a huge benefit for them.

Hi Jerry, a lot of people are wondering if Wade and Marland Yarde are ready to be given starts for England against New Zealand on Saturday. Do you agree that if a player is ready to play international games, then they are ready to play all international games, regardless of the opposition? N4meless

Hi N4meless, there's only one way to find out and that's to play them. Yarde didn't look out of place against the Wallabies and Wade will get his opportunity, I'm sure. Then he has to deliver not just in attack but in defence too.

Jerry, who do you think is the most honest coach/manager in rugby at the moment? Do you buy into this "take the positives" rubbish or should we expect and accept no excuses? They are paid to train and play rugby after all. Mistakes happen but not a half of slow, dull rugby! Ali Hoare

Hi Ali, if, buts and maybes are for losers. Honest coaches don't make excuses; they keep moving on, believing in their abilities and making changes where necessary. Some refereeing decisions aren't great but neither are some players at times.

I believe one of the hardest decisions a head coach has to make is which players to pick. For me, the buck stops there - the selections are made in the belief they will deliver. If they don't then you have to make the changes.

A lot of what we hear before and after a game from coaches is standard chat, nothing mind-blowing. The phrase "take the positives" is incredibly dull and not well thought-out but standard mumble from most after a loss.

As a former player, I don't think it would be right for a head coach to heavily criticise his team in front of the world. Open, honest talking is for the head coach and his group only.

At the moment New Zealand boss Steve Hansen rarely has an opportunity to say "take the positives" because his team rarely lose. It must be nice to be in that place!


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.