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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 06:34 GMT
England rugby heroes head home
Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson was at the centre of media attention
England's rugby World Cup winners are on their way back to the UK, where they will receive a heroes' welcome.

The squad left Sydney at 0520 GMT and their British Airways plane, specially named Sweet Chariot, is due at Heathrow airport in the early hours of Tuesday.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked the winning drop goal for a 20-17 win over Australia.

Millions have celebrated the historic win and plans are under way to honour the squad with a victory parade in London and a Downing Street reception.

The team's plane is due to touch down at Heathrow airport on Tuesday at 0500 GMT, with the Webb Ellis Trophy on board.

I think a parade in London or some similar public event to congratulate the England team on their victory is a great idea
Ken Livingstone
Mayor of London
The Boeing 747 bringing them home has been named Sweet Chariot by British Airways, in honour of the England team's anthem.

All the passengers are giving the team a toast and highlights of the victory are being shown on board.

Coach Clive Woodward and his men are certain to receive a huge welcome home from thousands of England fans.

Preparations have begun for a public event to mark the nation's biggest sporting triumph since 1966.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU), the game's governing body, has been in discussions with Westminster City Council since Friday about a parade.

England fans
England fans revelled in victory
"We would be honoured to host any sort of victory parade for them," said a council spokeswoman.

She added: "The RFU had some plans but it is very much in the early stages. We would be happy to be involved. It would be up to the RFU when they want to do the parade."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "I think a parade in London or some similar public event to congratulate the England team on their victory is a great idea.

"I will be happy to work with the sporting authorities and the government to make it happen."


The RFU said details of any official functions will be made available as soon as they were known.

Tony Blair spoke to Clive Woodward and captain Martin Johnson to congratulate them and his office is considering a champagne reception for the players at Downing Street.

Since Saturday's win, the squad has been basking in the glory and it swept the board at the International Rugby Board player of the year awards in Sydney on Sunday.

England won team of the year, Clive Woodward was coach of the year and Wilkinson received his player of the year award.

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