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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 18:34 GMT
Rugby's capital day out
By Simon Austin
BBC Sport on the parade route

It might have been a work day, and there was an icy chill in the air, but fans of England's World Cup winning team were not to be deterred from paying homage to their heroes.

Three-quarters of a million people lined the parade route from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square as London's West End came to a standstill.

The giant lions proved a popular vantage point

A wide array of people joined together to wave huge St George flags and bellow Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

There were teenagers who had skipped their studies to see skipper Martin Johnson and his men.

One group were particularly brazen, holding aloft a large banner proclaiming "We're bunkin' college".

The fact they had included the apostrophe made it seem almost okay.

Men in pinstriped suits vacated their offices and swapped stories about their own playing days.

And hundreds of builders from the National Gallery downed tools for a couple of hours so they could watch the amazing scenes below.

By midday, Trafalgar Square was completely full and fans clambered to get the best possible vantage point.

The most coveted spaces were the steps leading up to Nelson's column, and the giant marble lions also proved very popular.

There were many ways of filling the time as we waited for the England squad to reach their final destination.

Street vendors sold the usual memorabilia like flags and T-shirts, but also the more interesting blow-up Webb Ellis trophies and "Bank of Wilkinson" 10 notes.

Clive Woodward with the William Webb Ellis trophy

Aussie-baiting lyrics were popular among those who indulged in a sing-song. "I'd rather be a lion than a roo" is about the only line that can be repeated here.

Page Three girls from The Sun newspaper waved to the throng from - very appropriately - an open-top bus.

Less popular was an MC employed to "warm up" the crowd. He oafishly yelled "let's get ready to rumble" and "oggy oggy oggy" like a DJ at a kid's disco.

Yet there was delight when highlights from November's World Cup final were played on two massive screens.

Mike Tindall's ferocious first-half tackle on Australian captain George Gregan, Jason Robinson's try and "that" drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson drew the biggest cheers.

Then suddenly there was a frenzy of excitement in one corner of the square.

Soon we realised why. The moment everyone had been waiting for had arrived and the distinctive bus carrying England's players slowly came into view.

Choruses of "Sweet Chariot" and "We are the champions" rang out and fans strained to see the players.

It was difficult to tell who was more overwhelmed, the fans seeing their heroes or the players confronted by so many adoring onlookers.

There was one man whose bravery - or should that be foolishness - clearly astounded the players.

Undaunted by the freezing temperatures, he danced shirtless under one of the giant fountains for an hour and a half.

The elation of a World Cup win can have that kind of effect.

Links to more Rugby World Cup stories



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