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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 08:44 GMT
Thousands gather at rugby parade
England fans have been arriving in central London since early morning

England's Rugby World Cup team have arrived for a press conference in Hyde Park Corner as fans begin to gather in London for their victory parade.

Some supporters had braved freezing London weather since before 0600 GMT to secure their place along the route, with up to half a million fans expected to flock to central London.

The city's West End is set to grind to a halt when England's heroes arrive to show off the William Webb Ellis trophy, following their 20-17 victory over Australia.

Fans have been advised to allow plenty of time for their journeys with organisers warning of traffic chaos, closed streets and chilly weather.

England's squad and management will leave Marble Arch at 1200 GMT in two open top buses and travel eastbound to Trafalgar Square, where large TV screens will broadcast the action at 1300 GMT.

A selection of players and management, including coach Clive Woodward, captain Martin Johnson and fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will then be interviewed.

A number of roads in central London will be closed for the duration of the parade and people are being advised not to travel into the area by car.

There is limited street parking and buses will be curtailed or diverted away from the area from 1000 GMT.

Watch it live on BBC One
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Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "Monday will be a great day of celebration and should be an occasion for everyone to enjoy.

"[But] if you are coming into town please plan your journey to allow for extra time."

Following the Sweet Chariot victory parade, the England players will meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace and move on to a reception with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Scotland Yard have not given an estimate of the numbers expected, but say 500 officers will patrol the march.

Fans have been arriving in central London since early morning and the atmosphere is likely to be electric when the England team finally arrive.

"The last time the World Cup came into the country was in 1966," said one fan who had arrived in Trafalgar Square at 0500 GMT.

"I'm not here just to see one hero. There's all heroes as far as I'm concerned. It's a special day"

Sports Minister Richard Caborn said England's victory could help to kick start a sporting revolution.

"We are now in a position where we can encourage a lot more people back into sport," he said.

"This gives us a great opportunity to build on what England achieved at the World Cup."

On the eve of the parade an Australian minister made a public appeal for rugby fans to "do the right thing" and return the Rugby World Cup final's match-winning ball to England.

The last time the ball was seen was when fly-half Jonny Wilkinson slotted it through the posts in Sydney for a last-minute drop goal.

But on Sunday, the minister for sport in Australia's largest state, New South Wales, Sandra Nori said: "The ball may have been taken by an Aussie, equally it could have been a Pom.

"Regardless, on behalf of the people of Sydney and NSW, I implore, in the spirit of fair-play, whomever has the ball to do the right thing and find a way of returning it."

Links to more Rugby World Cup stories


Get the most out of England's parade
07 Dec 03  |  Rugby World Cup
New squabble over rugby reception
07 Dec 03  |  Politics


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