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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 11:52 GMT
England mania takes hold

By Nick Mullins
BBC Sport rugby correspondent

The burly minder in the white silk gloves held the trophy like a proud father cradling his first born.

He walked protectively around the tables at the posh dinner, offering guests the chance to spend a few seconds in the company of the golden cup.

Grown men and women were ooh-ing and aah-ing. They were clamouring for those all-important snapshots.

Family and friends were meeting the latest arrival for the first time. These were special moments to be treasured for the rest of their lives.

Matt Dawson and Ben Cohen celebrate
Dawson held his benefit dinner last week
To have been in Sydney the moment Jonny kicked for glory was extraordinary.

To be back home in time to witness the orgy of energy created by a single rugby match has left an equally indelible impression.

The minder and his gloves formed part of a colourful scene at Matt Dawson's benefit dinner in London a couple of days after the team touched down.

The timing of the meal was as perfect as the pass that preceded that history-making kick.

A sizeable slice of the squad pitched up for Dawson's big night. Here was another opportunity to experience life like it might have been for The Beatles.

Once upon a time there was Paul, John, George and Ringo. Last week there was Martin, Jonny, Daws and Thommo.

England's hooker actually stopped the London traffic as he crossed the road to the hotel earlier in the evening. Cab drivers waved and shouted at him. He shook his head in disbelief.

In the midst of all the bright lights and showbiz though, one thing shone for me through the week.

Here was a group of players the Aussie media had spectacularly misread as arrogant.

All of them seem to understand their lives can never be quite the same again, but they are all as keen for life to revert to something resembling normality as soon as possible.

You heard it in the voice of Jonny Wilkinson during the chaos of Tuesday morning's homecoming press conference.

You heard it from Martin Johnson when he preferred to chat about the week's American Football fixtures.

Will Greenwood and Jonny Wilkinson
Greenwood and Wilkinson are eager to return to normality
And you saw it in Will Greenwood when he turned down the chance of a stylish World Cup winning haircut at a top salon in favour of his usual 6 trim.

All of them are normal blokes trying to come to terms with the enormity of their extraordinary deeds.

It will take time. The rest of us though can afford to be a bit more indulgent.

England's rugby supporters, both old and new, will have pocketed a thousand tiny moments during the course of the first week of the reign of the red rose.

Those fragments will form the most vivid of winter collages as the days grow darker during the months ahead.

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