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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 October 2007, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
England rugby fans on tenterhooks
England rugby fans in Paris
South Africa are favourites to win despite England's resurgence
Up to 60,000 England fans in Paris are enthralled in a tension-filled 80 minutes as the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa kicks off.

Many of those without tickets are gathered around a giant screen beside the Eiffel Tower in the hope of seeing their team retain the Webb Ellis Cup.

Back in the UK, 5,000 fans have descended on London's O2 Arena for the biggest free screening outside Paris.

Gordon Brown and Princes William and Harry are at the final.

Despite being a Scot, the prime minister has sent his best wishes to Brian Ashton's players.

Messages of support also came from England's cricket and football teams and even the Queen.

English rugby fans in Paris

Her Majesty is said to be planning to watch the game on television, while her daughter, the Princess Royal, travelled to Paris to see the match.

Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton has also sent the team a good luck message.

He too is hoping for sporting success when he attempts to win the drivers' championship in Brazil on Sunday.

Sporting rivalry

A sea of red and white grew throughout the day in the French capital, with Springbok fans greatly outnumbered by their English rivals.

But England fan Adam Ingram, 22, a student from Huddersfield, Yorkshire, said there was great sporting camaraderie between the two sets of fans leading up to the match.

"It's great to be here and it's such a friendly atmosphere," he said.

"All the England and South Africa fans are mingling together and it's great. Win or lose, I'm going to hug a South African later."

French police have praised the behaviour of England fans.

Spokesman Olivier Deflon said: "We've had no trouble. It's not the same as football fans. Everyone is in good spirit."

Some 40,000 England supporters descended on Paris for last Saturday's semi-final against France and this time they have battled against major transport strikes to get there.

Despite laying on six extra trains, Eurostar sold out all 25,000 seats on services between London and Paris this weekend.

Ticket touts

And Eurolines laid on 18 extra coaches to ferry fans in fancy dress and St George flags across the Channel in time for the match.

Many of those arriving in Paris were met by touts offering tickets for up to 2,000.

England fan Ted Wainman
Mr Wainman advertises his desire to go to the match

Before the game Ted Wainman, 38, from Putney in London, said he was prepared to pay up to 350.

"They seem quite hard to find so the people who have them are in a strong position," he said of the ticket crunch.

Whether in Paris or back home, all England fans were keen to see a very different side than the one which lost 36-0 to the Springboks in the group stage of the tournament.

South Africa are still 2/5 favourites to take the trophy, but since England's return to form in later rounds, bookmakers have slashed the odds of them winning from as high as 80/1 to just 2/1.

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