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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 05:44 GMT
Daydream believers, homecoming kings

By Nick Mullins
BBC Sport rugby correspondent

It was the day it finally sank in - England are the world champions.

I can only liken the victory parade to a fantastic mix of Last Night at the Proms, a royal wedding and the most amazing New Year's Eve Trafalgar Square party rolled into one.

In many respects, the scenes that greeted England's World Cup winners in London's west end were even more extraordinary than their moment of glory in Sydney.

Jonny Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson salutes the crowd
For all of us lucky enough to witness what Jonny Wilkinson did in the Olympic stadium, the thrill was almost equalled by Monday's reception.

I don't think anybody expected the numbers of people who clogged not only Oxford Street and Regent Street, but the side roads too.

It wasn't just a main street procession, but a carnival of celebration that spilled over, on the top of traffic lights and Christmas trees.

These memories will live on forever.

I remember talking to Jonny Wilkinson after the final and asking if he was aware of the pandemonium his drop-goal had caused back home.

He wasn't - none of us were.

But now, for the first time, a real sense of achievement is absolutely clear.

It is almost overwhelming and, for some of England's stars, difficult to comprehend.

Will Greenwood told me he thought it astonishing that people who earn their living kicking a pig's bladder around can cause so much mayhem.

And Mike Catt revealed he keeps his medal with him all the time, demonstrating the fact by taking it out of his left breast pocket as we spoke - almost checking it was real, it did exist, it wasn't a dream.

Yet again I was struck at just how ordinary these men are - just like you and I, but with extraordinary talents.

Their achievement is something they are desperately trying to come to terms with - as well as some new transport arrangements.

After his ride on top one of the "Sweet Chariot" buses, Jason Robinson said he hadn't used public transport for about 20 years and certainly couldn't remember the last time he had bought a bus ticket.

Not that he had to on Monday either, of course.

Mike Catt and Jason Leonard
Catt and Leonard show their delight
And Jason Leonard admitted he was enjoying the luxury of free travel too.

The world's most capped international said he has not had to pay a cab fare since he got back as his money has been refused in honour of his deeds down under.

Despite the crowds and the adulation, rugby will never rival football in popularity in this country.

But I don't think that is the aim.

I believe that rugby has now cemented its place as England's number two sport, and we must make the most of that.

We have certainly enjoyed the highs, and I am sure we can maintain them.





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