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Result: England 6-15 South Africa


By Phil Harlow


2225: That's it, folks. Thanks very much for all your contributions, tonight and over the whole tournament. It's been emotional.

Whoever you support, you have to say that it was a great tournament, from start to finish. Argentina's win over France on the opening night, which seems like a lifetime ago now, set the tone and we've enjoyed some truly memorable action in the 47 matches which followed.

The final may not have been a classic of running rugby, but it was a gripping end to the whole event, and South Africa can be rightly hailed as worthy world champions.

All the best.

2222: "Bad luck boys. It was a great run to get to the final against the odds.

"Hopefully we can build on this going into the next 6 nations. Well done Springboks, you were the best team in the tournament."
balders77 on 606

2220: "It was asking a lot to overcome them a second time, but surprised that they managed to do better than expected. In the end the better team won."
The Snake, via text

2218: "In the Union Rooms in the final whistle rung out, a mighty roar of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' rang out across the room.

"If someone had told us three weeks ago that we'd be in the final, we'd have been delighted. Boys, we're so proud of you."
James, Retford via text

2215: The Premiership clubs haven't wasted any time in issuing their response to the result.

"The Guinness Premiership Clubs send their commiserations to the England players after their narrow defeat in tonight's Rugby World Cup final," reads an instantaneous press release from them.

It goes on to quote Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty: "The performances of the England team in the knock-out stages of this Rugby World Cup have been truly inspirational.

"Enormous credit should be given to the whole squad for the determination, skill and desire they have shown in reaching the Rugby World Cup final.

"Our supporters now look forward to welcoming home their players and giving them the tremendous reception they so richly deserve."

2211: England captain Phil Vickery reflects on the match:

"There was a bit of a loss of composure on our side but I can't fault anyone," he says.

"Now we've got another four years to wait.

"It was obviously a huge decision (to disallow Mark Cueto's "try"). I'm not going to blame referees, South Africa deserved their victory."

2207: Some initial reaction from South Africa coach Jake White:

"I'm delighted with the result," he says.

"It's important for our country and I think everyone back home is rejoicing. They were a bit unlucky not to get a try - we showed a bit of attitude on the line

"What more can I say? I'm over the moon, it's a massive win for us as a group."

2204: South Africa captain John Smit receives the William Webb Ellis trophy from French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Smit calls South African president Thabo Mbeki up alongside him and the pair join hands to lift the trophy together.

In the background, gold confetti flies into the air as the fireworks go off and the classical music sounds over the speakers.

The rest of the players come in, and Mbeki is hoist on a number of shoulders to lift the cup aloft again. Head coach Jake White and Eddie Jones also get a turn.

2157: Jean-Pierre Rives and his older son combine to drop the base of the cup before getting out onto the pitch, but they swiftly regain their composure and walk proudly out to the centre of the pitch to place it on the pedestal.

John Smit cannot keep the smile off his face as he leads his players up to the podium to collect their medals. Gordon Brown and Thabo Mbeki are still there, along with French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

2155: The William Webb Ellis trophy is making its way along the tunnel with France legend Jean-Pierre Rives, accompanied by a his children, one of whom is in floods of tears. It's all a bit much for him, bless him.

2152: British prime minister Gordon Brown is stony-faced as he comes onto the pitch as part of the presentation ceremony, alongside his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki.

England come up to collect their runner-up medals, and - to a man - they look shattered, emotionally and physically.

2149: "Well done South Africa, good game. I wasn't really gripped by it but that's because South Africa shut us down for the most part.

"Dodgy refereeing will be talked about in the English press just like if it was the other way round it would be talked about by the South African press - that's what the media do."
SpUrS4EuRoPeJoL4EvA on 606

80 mins: The ball is kicked into touch, and that's it. South Africa are world champions. England's players look absolutely disconsolate, but they simply couldn't do anything about it in the end.

South Africa's players are absolutely delighted and there are hugs and tears everywhere you look.

Over the World Cup as a whole, you have to say that South Africa deserve it.

79 mins: England know that it's all over. They get their wires crossed in midfield and the ball goes forward. There's just time for the scrum.

78 mins: England win a scrum inside their own half as South Africa infringe at the breakdown. The Springboks supporters have decided the game is up though and are celebrating wildly in the stands.

77 mins: South Africa are content to go through the phases in England territory now. It's up your jumper time.

75 mins: England have not given this up, but South Africa's defence has been brilliant. They have possession for nine, 10, 11 phases but seem to be going nowhere.

George Chuter ambles into contact, and South Africa win the penalty as he is forced to hold on. That could be just about it for England.

73 mins: A clever kick from Mathew Tait puts England deep in Springbok territory, but the South Africa line-out has been imperious - they haven't lost a single throw all night and have pinched seven of England's.

72 mins England's Toby Flood persists with the up-and-under tactic, but it just isn't bearing fruit. Percy Montgomery hasn't missed a high ball all night, and isn't about to start now. Surely England need to start keeping the ball in hand.

71 mins: Jonny Wilkinson goes for a long-range drop-goal and it just doesn't have the legs. England desperately needed that to go between the sticks but it comes up just short.

70 mins: Time is England's enemy now, and South Africa are doing their best to take the sting out of the match.

Some confusion as Joe Worsley comes off the field, looking less than happy. Replacement scrum-half Peter Richards - the last remaining sub - comes on for him and seems to be lining up at flanker.

67 mins: Mark Cueto is taken out by John Smit as he goes to chase his own kick ahead. A piece of sheer class from Jonny Wilkinson from the penalty kicks England into South Africa's 22, but then his forwards proceed to make a mess of the line-out.

Juan Smith takes it unopposed at the back and it's another chance gone for England. They might not get many more.

66 mins: South Africa are fortunate to get away without conceding a penalty as a forward shields the tackler from Fourie du Preez as England close in.

65 mins: Lawrence Dallaglio come on for Nick Easter, but is the Wasps veteran the sort of player that England need in the situation they are in? Joe Worsley and George Chuter are also on the field from the bench.

63 mins: Paul Sackey has a dart down the flank, but soon after Dan Hipkiss is absolutely creamed in the tackle by CJ van der Linde, driven back 5m at least and giving South Africa the chance to turn the ball over.

61 mins: PEN England 6-15 South Africa
A silly penalty is given away by Ben Kay as he prevents Os du Randt from making the tackle as Mark Cueto comes out of defence with ball in hand.

From just inside England's half, Francois Steyn lets fly with a long-range effort and it sails between the posts for a nine-point South Africa lead. Very dangerous times for England.

58 mins: Dan Hipkiss is doing exactly what he does week-in, week-out for Leicester, providing a great target for his forwards by staying on his feet and driving on and on.

Andy Gomarsall chips over the back of a ruck inside South Africa's 22 for Toby Flood to run onto, but it bounces just too far ahead. Flood gives the covering Percy Montgomery a little shove in the back and sends the full-back flying into a TV camera.

The camera is in all sorts of bother and South Africa aren't too impressed with Flood, but the referee lets him away with a warning.

55 mins: Much better stuff from England as a sharp break from Andy Gomarsall makes good ground round the base of a ruck.

Mathew Tait gets nailed in the tackle but is still able to get the ball back. It is worked left a couple of phases later, but this time Tait knocks on. Hugely frustrating for England.

There is a feeling that Percy Montgomery is really struggling out there, and is only still on the field to kick penalties. It's a long time since we saw him with ball in hand.

53 mins: Simon Shaw gets through on Fourie du Preez after coming through round the fringes. England have done on a job on the scrum-half so far, but there are plenty of other threats on the field for them.

England win a penalty in midfield as the Springboks infringe at the breakdown, and they use Toby Flood to boot the ball miles downfield into touch.

51 mins: Toby Flood is on for Mike Catt, this is a completely new-look England backline now.

Meanwhile, out wide JP Pietersen is outmuscled by Dan Hipkiss and driven over the touchline. England win the line-out only for Andrew Sheridan to clumsily knock-on.

48 mins: PEN England 6-12 South Africa
Another powerful and skilful burst up the middle from Francois Steyn. At just 20, he's having a superb match.

His burst forces a penalty as Martin Corry plays the ball off his feet.

Percy Montgomery, now over 100 points for the tournament, has no difficulty whatsoever in slotting the kick.

45 mins: A huge shame as Jason Robinson has to limp off with an injury. This time it really is all over for him - this is the last time we'll ever see him on a rugby pitch. A sad way for one of the all-time greats to go out, but his mates can still send him off with a winners' medal.

He gets a standing ovation as he hobbles off, and there's an outbreak of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Dan Hipkiss is on in his place. Mathew Tait goes to full-back, with Hipkiss at outside centre.

44 mins: Fantastic kick from Victor Matfield of all people. He gets the ball at first receiver, looks up and dabs one in that makes Mark Cueto turn.

The England winger has to play it, and has no choice but to run it out over the touchline.

42 mins: PEN England 6-9 South Africa
Unbelievable stuff from England as a lightning break from Mathew Tait splits South Africa wide open.

Andy Gomarsall fires out a terrible pass which misses its intended target - Jonny Wilkinson - by miles. It rolls along the ground and makes its way to Tait who steps off his left then his right foot to burst through and beat four men in a thrilling run.

He's stopped just short of the line and England recycle it to the left, where a brilliant piece of skill from Jonny Wilkinson gives Mark Cueto the ball right next to the touchline. He slides in under pressure and thinks he's scored, but the video official - after three minutes of deliberation - decides he had a foot in touch.

Still, England get the penalty for an offence by Schalk Burger, and Jonny Wilkinson holds his nerve to kick the points, albeit off the post.

41 mins: We're off again. Butch James kicks off for Nick Easter to collect.

Important team news for England: Captain Phil Vickery is off, replaced by Matt Stevens.

2050: "My worry is that after the break by Francois Steyn, England looked all over the shop - if South Africa get quick ball they are the best in the world at getting points on the board."
Matt Dawson on BBC Radio 5live

2045: "I can't watch the game. I already have no nails. Think I might put on an old rerun of Last of the Summer Wine to calm my nerves..."
Leigh, Newton Abbot via text

40 mins: PEN England 3-9 South Africa
England cynically kill the ball with a try looking ever more likely for South Africa. There is a brief debate about whether to go for the corner or not, before the ball is handed to goal-kicker Percy Montgomery.

Montgomery steadies himself before stroking the kick in from the 15m line to give his side a six-point lead as the half-time whistle is sounded.

38 mins: Danie Roussouw drives off the back of the scrum and is stopped a matter of inches short of the try-line by Lewis Moody's tackle. This is so tense, it's unbearable.

37 mins: The 5m scrum is reset four times before South Africa manage to turn it through the 90 and get the put-in. That could be absolutely pivotal.

35 mins: A fantastic break from Francois Steyn sees him dance in and around England's midfield to get South Africa on the front foot. JP Pietersen takes it on before the front row get involved in their own rather more muscular way.

South Africa swing it wide to the left flank but Paul Sackey comes in off his wing to make a vital tackle on Steyn again. Still South Africa go for the line, with John Smit stopped two yards short.

It's all hands to the pump for England, and there are roars of delight from the men in white as the ball is just knocked slightly forward by a Springbok hand to give them the put-in at a 5m scrum.

Percy Montgomery receives treatment for quite some time, but eventually gets back to his feet and tries to run it off.

33 mins: Kick, kick, kick. I haven't seen this much kicking in a match for quite some time - it's two sides desperate to avoid making a mistake at the moment.

31 mins: Martin Corry takes the decision to come in and hits Percy Montgomery man and ball. A great hit which seems to have knocked the stuffing out of the Springbok full-back. It's enormously physical out there.

28 mins: Good work from England centre Mathew Tait as he rips the ball off a South African and reacts instantly to send the ball wide to Mike Catt.

Catt has little support and takes the intelligent option of chipping for touch in South Africa's 22. The Springbok line-out has been absolutely impregnable so far though.

26 mins: England look pedestrian attacking off the first phase with Paul Sackey getting no space or momentum when he gets the ball out wide. They recycle and go back across the field, looking much more dangerous as Jason Robinson finds a chink of light.

He tries to offload to Mark Cueto but a South Africa tackler gets to the ball just in time.

25 mins: A ferocious tackle by Juan Smith on Nick Easter knocks the England number eight 10 or 12m back as he tries to drive off the back of a scrum. England have got to get to grips with the physicality of this match.

23 mins: A cheeky chip over the top from Butch James bounces up perfectly for the fly-half to collect at full pelt. He almost gets straight through before a great tackle knocks him over.

It's a highly dangerous attack for South Africa, but they lose momentum with some scruffy work at the breakdown and JP Pietersen is eventually pinged for clinging onto the ball on the ground, much to England's delight.

21 mins: Phil Vickery is unlucky to give away a penalty on halfway. He is over the ball but is shunted forward by his team-mate Ben Kay hitting the ruck at speed, and the prop ends up offside.

Fortunately for England, Francois Steyn's long-range attempt is just wide of the mark.

19 mins: Percy Montgomery has been as solid as a rock under the high ball as he takes yet another steepling up-and-under. His neck will be aching at the end of the match from peering into the Parisian night in search of the ball.

17 mins: England are enjoying a decent spell of possession among their forwards and they go through the phases to give Jonny Wilkinson the chance of a drop-goal.

England's golden boy skews his effort wide of the posts though. He is furious with himself.

15 mins: PEN England 3-6 South Africa
Another high kick from Butch James leads to a penalty as England flanker Lewis Moody flicks out a cynical boot in the fly-half's direction as he chases the ball.

Referee Alain Rolland spots it and awards a penalty where the ball lands, giving Percy Montgomery the chance to kick South Africa back in front. Brainless stuff from Moody.

12 mins: Both sides are happy to kick the leather off the ball so far. Hardly a running move worthy of the name so far.

10 mins: PEN England 3-3 South Africa JP Pietersen spills another up-and-under - England are going to stick with this tactic, it looks like. Simon Shaw is on the loose ball in a flash and quickly offloads to Mike Catt.

England recycle and go wide through Paul Sackey and win a penalty as South Africa kill the ball. It's a difficult kick, just in from the touchline, but Jonny Wilkinson is equal to the task as he curls in a superb effort. It's all square again.

8 mins: Victor Matfield calls a great mark inside his 22 under pressure from Mike Catt, and then taps to Fourie du Preez who kicks for touch.

The ball is touched in flight by an England hand, playing all the Springbok players in front onside. Os du Randt trundles towards the ball and forces Mark Cueto into a nervous-looking knock-on.

6 mins: PEN England 0-3 South Africa
England try to run from inside their 22 for some reason and Mathew Tait loses his feet and gets isolated on the deck. Three seconds later, South Africa get the penalty right in front of the posts.

Percy Montgomery cannot miss, and he doesn't. Not the start England wanted - that was totally self-inflicted.

5 mins: England look to be trying the aerial route early on, peppering Bryan Habana with high kicks but the winger is safe as houses under them.

4 mins: England kick long and Percy Montgomery slips on the surface before collecting the ball and clearing upfield.

2 mins: South Africa win the first line-out - against the throw - but a terribly casual pass from Fourie du Preez, out the back of his hand from 15m away, causes a knock-on in the South Africa backline and gives England a great opportunity.

England go through four phases before some great counter-rucking from South Africa turns the ball back over.

1 min: This is it. England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson kicks off to get the 2007 World Cup final under way.

Schalk Burger collects and is met by a fierce tackle from Mark Regan. The Springboks clear their lines though through Butch James.

1958: The teams line up arm-in-arm either side of halfway for the anthems.

God Save the Queen is first and most of the players give it their absolute all, Lawrence Dallaglio in particular. British prime minister Gordon Brown is picked up by the cameras in the crowd, but he won't win any prizes for his half-hearted mouthing of the anthem.

South Africa's turn now and a few players - Bryan Habana, among them - are filling up with the emotion of it all.

Forget all the hype, all the words, all the hours of TV - we're moments away from the start of a fascinating match. It's all down to the players now.

1954: Here we go - the players are lining up alongside each other in the tunnel behind their respective captains, Phil Vickery and John Smit.

The music starts and they stride out onto the pitch. How must they be feeling? The crowd is buzzing, and the stands are glittering with the flashbulbs of photos of the historic moment.

1952: The reason some of us become international sports stars and some of us become journalists is becoming apparent. The BBC office is a collective bundle of nerves that can barely stop their hands shaking to type.

1948: A quick reminder of the 44 players who have the chance to go into rugby history. Which one of them will it be who is a hero in two hours' time?

England: Jason Robinson; Paul Sackey, Mathew Tait, Mike Catt, Mark Cueto; Jonny Wilkinson, Andy Gomarsall; Andrew Sheridan, Mark Regan, Phil Vickery (capt), Simon Shaw, Ben Kay, Martin Corry, Lewis Moody, Nick Easter.
Replacements: George Chuter, Matt Stevens, Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley, Peter Richards, Toby Flood, Danny Hipkiss.

South Africa: Percy Montgomery; JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana; Butch James, Fourie du Preez; Os du Randt, John Smit (capt), CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Danie Roussouw.
Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Johannes Muller, Wickus van Heerden, Ruan Pienaar, Andre Pretorius, Wynand Olivier.

1945: That's what we want to see. Lawrence Dallaglio is beside himself with emotion in the warm-ups - and he's only on tackle bag duty... what must the rest of them be like?

1943: "Bristolian comedian Justin Lee Collins and Scottish actor Jonny Lee Miller - in an England top - are in the bar watching with us in Santa Monica."
Sarah H in LA, via text

1940: "I feel sick, and only on first pint (of wine). Never felt like this before a match, not even the 2003 final.

"I will be pacing the floor before this night is out!"
Vicky, Herts, via text

1935: Earlier in the week, South Africa boss Jake White said he planned to speak to referee Alain Rolland to express his concerns about the scrummaging of England prop Andrew Sheridan.

Under IRB tournament regulations, teams cannot talk to the referee before a match but Rolland will adopt the standard practice of talking to both front rows before kick-off and the Springboks plan to make their feelings known then.

"We feel that Sheridan does not scrum straight and there is also an issue with his technique - he does not always bind on to his opponent's arm as he is meant to," said White.

"While we are not allowed to meet with Alain Rolland before the game, he will come into our changing room before the kick-off to speak to the front rowers and we will take that opportunity to bring our concerns to his attention.

"The scrum is a major part of the game and England have got to the final because they have been effective in that set-piece. It is an area where we are going to go on the attack.

"We faced the best scrum in the world last Sunday and the fact we did not come to grips with it was a blessing in disguise because it has made us redouble our efforts there this week."

1930: "The crowd can play a big part. Sing loud and proud and scare the South Africans into submission before they've even started playing.

"I think they'll be a new hero tonight though. Maybe that Sackey bloke..."
dancing_shoes on 606

1927: England coach Brian Ashton is fulfilling his final media duties before kick-off, talking to BBC Radio 5live.

The players seem pretty relaxed but in a focused sort of way," says Ashton, who sounds as down to earth and phlegmatic as ever.

"What we did last week before the France game (which also kicked off at 2100 Paris time) and this week is to manage our day. We have let the players sleep in later and train in the evenings, so hopefully come 9.00 the guys will be wide awake.

"I get the sense with these guys that there is something about them. They are determined to show the world that England rugby is not dead and buried.

"Belief is the key thing and I do think there is that sense of belief in the side."

1924: If John Inverdale - presenting the BBC coverage on Radio 5live - is to be believed, Jonny Wilkinson is in ridiculously good form with the boot in training.

Inverdale says he just watched England's fly-half hit the post three times in a row - and he was aiming for the posts.

1922: "The Stade de France is slowing filling up and the players are out doing their final warm-ups.

"For South Africa, centre Francois Steyn is firing over drop goals from near halfway. He has just slotted five in a row. Gulp.

"The concourses outside are swelling with raucous fans. Just seen an England fan staggering around desperately trying to find his gate. I told you about peaking too early."
BBC Sport's Mark Orlovac at the Stade de France

1916: The Kenny Rogers masks are out among the England fans watching the big screens in Rugby Town, Paris.

Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers is England's favourite country n western singer

Kenny, for those of you who haven't followed the story closely over the last few days, is the famous country and western singer responsible for The Gambler, the tune adopted by the England team as their unofficial anthem.

A few choice lyrics:

"Now every gambler knows that the secret to surviving
Is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause every hand's a winner and every hand's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

"So when he'd finished speaking, he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even
But in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep."

1912: "It has been 36 gruelling days since we hit the lowest point but now it is England's turn to strike back with all our might.

"They have worked incredibly hard to get where they are and I know, no matter what happens, they will be heroes back here at home. We have shown that the English lion is alive and is out to get the Springboks.

"One last push, one last cry, one last roar!"
Will in England via text

1907: "It's absolutely heaving outside the Stade de France, although it looks like a lot of fans may have peaked too early...

"Inside the stadium, the England players are warming up on the pitch. The seven subs are the last ones out with Lawrence Dallaglio putting a muscular arm round the shoulders of Peter Richards as they stroll around to soak up the atmosphere.

"South Africa are loosening up and stretching, while Fourie du Preez and Percy Montgomery practise their kicking."
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce at the Stade de France

1901: The former South Africa president Nelson Mandela, has just shown his support for the Springbok rugby team, appearing on a balcony to wave to the crowds of supporters in Boktown, Monte Casino.

Who can forget the image of him wearing his South Africa shirt to hand the trophy to Francois Pienaar after the 1995 final?

He is not well enough to travel this time around, but his support will still carry a lot of weight for the Springboks players.

1855: "I am so nervous. At least this one can't go to penalties!"
Jon, via text

You say that, Jon, but technically it could. If the scores are level after full-time and extra-time, we would go through to a period of 10 minutes of sudden death in which any score would win it.

If we get through that without a score we would have a penalty shoot-out with five players from each team taking kicks at goal from in front of the posts and on the 15m line either side. How good would that be?

1849: The players are at the stadium now, and the feelings they will be going through are pretty much impossible for the rest of us to even imagine.

One man who has been through it all is former England centre Will Greenwood, part of their winning team in 2003 and he has written a tremendous piece in today's Daily Telegraph to give an insight into the atmosphere in the hours before such a massive occasion.

"Handshakes and hugs go on all night at every available opportunity. You need to feel, you need to touch, you need to know it is really happening and not some fantastic dream," he writes.

"Finally it's your turn for strapping. Silence as the physio applies the tape and we realise that our bodies will have to pay the price for this most brutal and beautiful of days and sports. Hop off the massage table, a big inhale of smelling salts to clear the passages and kick-start your head, perhaps a can of caffeine drink.

"The warm-up on the pitch, the frightening intensity of it. Hit tackle pads, tell yourself that whatever comes down your channel will have to snap off your arms to get past.

"You are a raging fire, your body is virtually uncontrollable, you simply do not know what to do with it. Your mind must then kick in and control the fury. Clear decisions and iron discipline must direct this human weapon."


1845: Just found an English pub in Santa Monica to watch the rugby... last week we couldn't get in so we've got here nice and early. We paid 20 bucks to get in and are drinking tea with three EMI record executives. I think we could win..."
Sarah H in LA, via text

1840: "Le Champs de Mar is absolutely buzzing - like nothing I've ever seen before! We have travelled, tasted the champagne and now it's time to embrace the dream. Believe!"
Tim in Paris, via text

1834: "More heart, more passion, more skill, more determination, more support, more belief and more courage than four years ago are needed tonight.

"The fans have given their all and if the players give theirs tonight then this will be a bigger victory than last time and will kick start the greatest celebrations that London, England, Paris, France and the world has seen. What a build-up. What a night. Now lets all make this THE night to remember!"
Chudders in Manchester, via text

1832: "Everything is just settling down in a South Africa now. The beers are flowing, the braai's cooking all in anticipation of a great SA win and then the mother of all parties will begin.

"Go Bokke! Bring home the Cup!"
akajayb007 on 606

1828: England flanker Martin Corry revealed that there is still a place for rugby's old traditions, even in the week of a World Cup final. The entire squad went out in Paris for a curry night on Wednesday.

To be fair, the more orthodox relationship between curry and rugby is to play with a screaming hangover and churning stomach on a Saturday afternoon after a heavy Friday night.

Let's just hope that England decided against a repeat last night.

1820: England legend Richard Hill, part of the famous Hill-Back-Dallaglio back-row which helped win the World Cup in 2003, is one of the 10,000-strong crowd watching the action on big screens at the 02 Arena.

"This is going to be fantastic - there's just been a lot of abuse with the first sighting of a South African," he tells BBC News 24.

Reliving his experiences of four years ago, Hill goes on to tell us how the England players will have dealt with the last few days and the next couple of hours.

"It was a sleepless week, you try to get sleep whenever you can and there's no doubt they'll be full of nerves now," he says.

"They'll be on the coach on their way to ground driving through Paris, with the gendarmes kicking cars out of the way - it's one of the very impressive things about playing in France.

"It helps tremendously that England have players that have played in a World Cup before. They will establish that nerves are a good thing, and will know how to react to intense pressure on the pitch.

"England have surpassed what we all thought they were capable of - we all have to eat humble pie with regards to that and it just shows the strength of character in the squad."

1815: Word reaches us that England have left their hotel in Paris and are driving along the roads of the capital on the way to the ground. To be a fly on the window of that coach...

1810: Just seen a short snippet of a video message from former South Africa president Nelson Mandela.

He is not able to make the journey to Paris this evening but he offered the following words of encouragement to the South Africa team.

"I know you can triumph and bring the trophy home - Go, Springboks, go!"

1807: Hopefully I'm not spoiling anybody's fun here by revealing that Lewis Hamilton will start second in the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix in Brazil.

Let's hope that England don't come off second best in Paris, in this weekend of so-near, yet so-far sporting success.

1804: "As a neutral, I'm hoping South Africa may be daring enough to play some running rugby in the first 20 minutes and get a 10-point lead and put it beyond England. Just can't see England being able to get back from 10-12 down when tries will be required."
Ronny30 on 606

1801: "Inside the Stade de France it is eerily quiet, especially compared with the bedlam that is going on outside.

"There are no fans in yet but even so I can here the strains of "Swing Low" from somewhere in the distance. It is a beautiful, clear night in Paris. The sun is starting to set and it is cold, especially when the biting breeze starts to blow.

"The stadium looks fantastic but the pitch does seem to have a few bare patches on it. The stage is set, I can't wait."
BBC Sport's Mark Orlovac in the Stade de France

1759: I've just got off the phone from Tom Fordyce, our blogger out in Paris, who is now officially the happiest man in France.

Headline news is that he has got a ticket and is inside the stadium. I didn't even ask how, but Tom is not a violent man, as far as I know.

1756: "One more big push from those aging, aching but utterly valiant and heroic bodies lads! Play with all your heart and soul, put your bodies on the line for our ancient and noble land and you can be indomitable once again.

"We're all with you tonight, C'mon England!"
Henners in Bristol via text

I'm almost in tears after that.

1752: Apologies for the brief delay - that was so I could go to the BBC canteen and grab a polystyrene box full of grub to sustain me through this momentous night.

I'm back and will be grabbing mouthfuls as and when possible, but nothing else will stop the flow of chat from here on in.

1738: "Let's face it, England have been nothing like the best team in this World Cup, but now they find themselves in the final. Pure determination will win it for them - just watch!"
Matt in Aberdeen via text

1732: "It's 2.00am here in Newcastle in Australia and I'm nodding off.... Don't know whether to go to bed for a couple of hours or have another beer... Might make a pot of tea in my union jack teapot for good luck..."
penno69 on 606

1730: It seems that everyone has an opinion on this match. Newcastle (that's the Magpies rather than the Falcons) boss Sam Allardyce offers the following pearls of wisdom on Jonny Wilkinson.

"There is nobody better than him, and using him to his maximum is one of the key reasons why they have got to where they have got."

Cheers, big Sam.

1728: "Evening Phil. Someone's drawn the short straw. Bit like me. Parents in Paris at the match. I'm at home with no plans. Any London event for me to attend?"
Jordan via text

1725: James Bond star Daniel Craig got in touch with the England boys earlier in the week to give him his best wishes, and ITV are getting in the spirit by showing Dr No.

Just what the England players need to inspire them, I'm sure they're all tuning in as we speak.

1723: "They may be collecting their shirts, but that's all they will be collecting today!"
A cutting comment from anon, via text in response to the previous entry.

1720: As if they needed any extra geeing-up, South Africa's players got the benefit of collecting their match shirts from stars of their World Cup-winning compatriots from 1995.

Coach Mornie du Plessis, captain Francois Pienaar, fly-half Joel Stransky, prop Ballie Swart, hooker Chris Rossouw and winger James Small all travelled to the team's hotel to hand out the jerseys on Friday.

"It was a pretty special event," said current skipper John Smit.

1716: "I'm so excited I'm practically counting down the seconds! Whatever happens, I think there are a number of things that are going to make England perform to amazing heights. Things such as players last game (eg, Robinson), the intensity of the fans, the fact that they've nothing really to lose compared to South Africa.

"It's going to be a hell of a match."
loyalness on 606

1713: "Usually a football fan only, but I've fell in love with the commitment shown from the rugby lads. I'll be drinking a few in their honour tonight."
WearsidePride on 606

1710: If England beat South Africa and retain the World Cup, it's a safe bet that the whole country will go bananas.

The whole country, that is, except the bookies. Several UK firms are looking at seven-figure pay-outs if Phil Vickery lifts the trophy. "Bleak doesn't begin to describe it," said a spokesman for Ladbrokes.

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it? No? Nor me.

1703: Evening all, it's you and me from here on in.

Sterling work from Sam on the countdown that's been running all day, but the big man has had enough.

He's off down the pub now leaving the serious stuff to those of us left in the office.

We want to hear all your chat - via text or 606 - before and during the match. And we'll do our absolute best to keep you absolutely up to date with what's going on in Paris, on and off the pitch, thanks to our team of intrepid reporters on the scene.

England 6-15 South Africa
20 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
World Cup final photos
20 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
White hails 'important' victory
20 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
South Africa unchanged for final
18 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
England turn to Cueto for final
17 Oct 07 |  English
England 14-9 France
13 Oct 07 |  English
South Africa 37-13 Argentina
14 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
England 0-36 South Africa
14 Sep 07 |  English
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


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