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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 14:00 GMT
Reception delights players
Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson celebrate with the trophy

England's victorious rugby captain Martin Johnson led the tributes to the crowds who thronged the route of the team's central London Victory Parade.

Over half a million people packed the route from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square to watch the team show off the William Webb Ellis trophy.

Johnson said he and the rest of the squad had been overwhelmed by the reception they had received.

"The reaction of the fans has been incredible," he admitted.

"I said to the guys, can you believe we are going to go and do this? It's like when we won the final we had to take the moment in but it went quickly.

"We have to take days like today in and remember it because it will be a day to remember for us all."

England drop-goal hero Jonny Wilkinson admitted he was delighted to be back with the rest of the England team to thank those who supported them during their World Cup campaign.

"Everybody is keen to pay some respect to guys who dedicated their last eight weeks to following the team and I'm sure being out there will bring back memories of the final," he said.

"It's all right for us when we travel with the team but when guys have to put all the effort into getting a flight all the way around the world just to watch games and give us a cheer it is huge dedication.

"They've made a huge effort and that's what the players feel and that's why we are keen to pay it back today," he said.

"We are all so proud to be here and being on the bus was undoubtedly one of the greatest moments of my career.

"When you see this reception you see how much winning the trophy means to everyone," he added.

Despite the receptions that the players received in Australia and on their return back to Heathrow, coach Clive Woodward was thrilled at the support his players received on the parade.

"These are just extraordinary scenes," he said. "I never thought I would see something like this on the streets of London.

"This is probably the day when the fact that we have won the World Cup has sunk in and we are all very grateful for the support we have received.

"This is the most professional and level-headed bunch of players I have ever seen and I'm sure they will have no problem getting their feet back on the ground."

Mike Catt described it as a "humbling experience".

"The last 10 days have been hectic and something you could not have imagined in your wildest dreams," he acknowledged.

"Everywhere we have gone we have had a great reaction and the support of the public has been tremendous - especially today."

Matt Dawson is relishing the attention that has been lavished on him since the victory over Australia.

"I've had a great time," he laughed.

We have got the best fans in the world
Jason Leonard

"I can't say life has been normal - it hasn't. I've met the public, I'm going to meet the Queen and I've been on David Frost on Sunday morning."

Jason Robinson also admitted that he had not had a chance to get back to normality.

"That's what you have to expect and I hope we can use the parade to give a big thank you to everyone who supported us.

"Certainly since I got back I've not been able to go anywhere on my own as people just keep coming up to me.

"When I got back to Sale, they introduced me to the team again as I had been away so long and then they gave me a round of applause so I felt very welcome," he said.

Links to more Rugby World Cup stories


England's Jonny Wilkinson
"We're overwhelmed by all this support"

England captain Martin Johnson
"It's been mindblowing"

New squabble over rugby reception
07 Dec 03  |  Politics


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