Jeremy Guscott

Week 72 (14 - 20 February 2015)

There's been an unusual disagreement within the British rugby media in the past two weeks. Not about England's chances of winning this year's Six Nations tournament – for this causes divisions every year – rather it's about England's latest star turn, centre Jonathan Joseph, and whether he can fairly be called the "new Jeremy Guscott".

Guscott, 49, was an England rugby player in the 1980s and 1990s, winning 65 caps for his country and scoring an impressive 30 tries.

And he does share some striking similarities with Joseph: both are mixed-race and both play/played their club rugby for Bath in similar positions (Guscott was an inside centre and Joseph is an outside centre).

When former England player Mike Catt first described Joseph as the "new Guscott" in 2012, it was tailor-made for creating headlines, and it did.

But after Joseph's recent stand-out performances in the first two rounds of the Six Nations, in which he's scored three tries, a media chasm has emerged.

On the one side there are those keen to hail Joseph as England's new messiah, using the "new Guscott" tag as a useful ploy in that strategy. Whilst on the other side there are those who believe the comparison is lazy and inaccurate.

For rugby fans the difference in opinion is a bit of fun and an interesting kick-off point for comparing rugby in the modern day and in Guscott's era. However, for the man at the centre of it all, Jonathan Joseph, it's probably quite a distraction. And if it isn't now, it certainly has the potential to be further down the line in his career.

Which is why Guscott playing down the link between the two this week was an important piece of communication, for Joseph's career and (in a World Cup year why not?) English rugby as well. What's more is that Guscott's analysis of the difference in style between himself and Joseph was a rare insight into the minutiae of the game. For rugby fans it was a cut-out-and-keep piece of journalism.

In his BBC sport column, Guscott wrote: "A lot of people have been making the comparison between myself and England's double try-scorer Jonathan Joseph, who is now filling the Bath and England midfield that I once occupied, but there is a big difference between us.

"I would anticipate or see a space, be on course to run into it and depend on players feeding me the ball on that angle.

"Joseph, by contrast, creates his own space with quick feet and rapid acceleration, and his speed and step will humble defences.

"You can't really prepare to play someone like Joseph. To counter that step, you would try and line up opposite his right shoulder, but that is generally a tackler's weaker side and we don't know yet if Joseph is capable of going the other way, which he might well be.

"The hesitation that he causes is his trump card and he is very hard to defend against."

The effect of Guscott's words will undoubtedly be to cool the side of the rugby media intent on playing up the comparison with Joseph, allowing Joseph to focus on his rugby – and on the small matter of a home World Cup later this year.

Photo: Flickr