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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:16 GMT
We're all English now (but not for long)
By Jonathon Moore
Rugby union editor

Martin Johnson celebrates his World Cup win
England victory should benefit European rugby as a whole
The All Blacks have been humbled, England are world champions and even this proud Welshman applauded when Jonny Wilkinson's late kick sailed through the posts.

The rugby world is a strange one at the moment.

When Martin Johnson lifted the World Cup trophy in Sydney on Saturday, it changed the future of, not only English, but European rugby at a stroke.

"Rarely have I seen a match of such commitment and intensity," French president Jacques Chirac wrote in a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"This deserved victory is also a victory for Europe."

Alongside their Gallic neighbours, the English game has always been highly prized, but never revered.

Conventional wisdom tells us that, while rugby's heart may beat in Twickenham, Paris and Cardiff, its brain has been nurtured in Auckland, Sydney and Johannesburg.

The dominance of the southern hemisphere triumvirate of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on the pitch has allowed them to shape the future of the game off it.

Their competitions - the Tri-Nations and Super 12 - have been regarded almost unquestionably as the world's best and their coaches farmed out across the globe to spread the gospel - southern style.

But no longer.

Rugby's world champions will be plying their trade a little closer to home from now on and fans can rightly look forward to a mouth-watering year of European rugby.

It's brilliant for rugby in the northern hemisphere
All Black great Sean Fitzpatrick
The Heineken Cup and the Six Nations, in particular, have been given an enormous boost by England's victory down under.

With the exception of Scotland, who looked well below their best, the other home nations all performed impressively at this year's tournament.

Ireland snarled and snapped at virtually every team who crossed their path and Wales lit up the tournament with two of the most exhilarating performances in recent history.

"I think it's quite frightening," admitted All Black great Sean Fitzpatrick, following Saturday's result.

"But it's brilliant for rugby in the northern hemisphere and brilliant for rugby worldwide."

His comments were echoed by Welsh great Ieuan Evans, who was left in no doubt about the importance of England's win.

"It's a massive boost for the UK game," he said. "I want to see kids picking up the ball and playing and the knock on effect in the other home nations will be phenomenal."

The ripples emanating from Twickenham could run far and wide.

The Six Nations looks set to be a exciting championship in 2004
The 2004 Six Nations championship could be a cracker
Aside from greater sponsorship, increased ticket sales and a bigger media profile, the Six Nations now includes the world champions.

A match against England carries with it the possibility of downing the best team on the planet.

For the Celtic nations, the importance of England's victory cannot be underestimated.

Crowds at the newly formed Welsh provincial clubs have thus far barely registered.

Surely that will change when a certain World Cup winning captain and his Leicester cohorts visits Rodney Parade in December?

It all adds up to a tantalising prospect, and gives children throughout the UK more reason than ever to pick up an oval ball.

For that reason alone, we should all be thankful Clive Woodward will be returning home with the World Cup trophy on Tuesday.

Links to more Rugby World Cup stories


England scrum-half Matt Dawson
"You can't underestimate the power of the support we've had"


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