England win Rugby World Cup

ENGLAND won the Rugby World Cup today in a historic victory over Australia by 20 points to 17 in a pulsating final in Sydney.Jonny Wilkinson was again England's hero, with a last minute drop-goal to complete the nation's greatest sporting triumph since 1966.

ENGLAND won the Rugby World Cup today in a historic victory over Australia by 20 points to 17 in a pulsating final in Sydney.

Jonny Wilkinson was again England's hero, with a last minute drop-goal to complete the nation's greatest sporting triumph since 1966.

And as in 1966 the match went into extra-time - and again England were triumphant.

Wilkinson kicked 14 points with a nervous knife-edge extra-time victory over he Green and Golds on the their home soil in Sydney's Telstra stadium.

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England clung on to their lead in a magnificent hearts-in-mouth match worthy of a World Cup final.

At the final whistle England's battered and bruised heroes joined millions of fans across the world jumping for joy and punching the air in victory - as the sorry Wallabies sunk to their feet in agony.

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mfl England had been slaughtered with criticism Down Under, led by Australia's press over their "boring" style of play.

But Clive Woodward's men stuck to their task, matching the Wallabies for tries and playing attacking, running, rugby in a pulsating match.

After conceding an early try, England's forwards began to dominate, giving Wilkinson's deadly boot the opportunity to kick three penalties.

England led from the 20th minute before Jason Robinson crossed the try line after a magnificent move from England.

Woodward's men went in at half time 14-5, and more than matched the Wallabies in the second half.

But penalties to Australia on 47 and 61 minutes cut England's lead to 11-14.

And with just two minutes to go England conceded a crucial penalty converted by Elton Flatley, to take the game to 20 minutes of extra time.

But England again dug deep, showing incredible spirit, they withstood a ferocious Aussie fightback and again took the game to the opposition.

After both sides conceded a penalty kick Wilkinson scored a priceless drop-goal with just a minute on the clock to cap an incredible final.

Australia, with home advantage, were bidding to become world champions for an unprecedented second time in succession, while England targeted their first global crown.

It was a dream final in every way - the world's two finest two going head to head - and England coming out on top.

The 40,000 Barmy Army, almost half the capacity 83,500 crowd, went berserk at full time before a deafening chorus of Swing Low Sweet Chariot echoed around the stadium, drowning out Waltzing Matilda.

As ecstatic fans set off to drink Sydney dry, millions of England fans at home and in every corner of a foreign field rejoiced.

An estimated 15,000 pubs, bars and rugby clubs up and down the country opened up at 7am and were packed to the rafters for the big match.

Supermarkets had ordered extra supplies of beer plus fry-up essentials eggs, bacon and sausages.

Thousands of drinks were raised in victory after a nail-biting 80 minutes of rugby.

Australian fans decked out in Green and Gold and carrying inflatable kangaroos were left crying into their pints as England lifted The Webb Ellis Cup.

A staggering 37 million victory pints will be sunk today, seven million more than normal, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

The England team had received thousands of messages of support, including one from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

And the team was cheered on by avid rugby fan Prince Harry in the Telstra Stadium, and the Queen is understood to have watched the final on TV.

In a hand written letter, he said: "This is just to wish the team every success on Saturday. It is a magnificent achievement to be in the World Cup Final. The team have shown great character.'

Many shops have already benefited from the World Cup, with department store chain John Lewis reporting sales of rugby merchandise up 16%.

Demand has also soared for a computer game, Rugby 2004, which features a cyber version of England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson.

Marks & Spencer is aiming to have the first 750 of a special T-shirt design in stores within hours of the final whistle if England win.

The retailer is on stand-by to start printing T-shirts with the winning score and who got each drop goal, try, conversion and penalty.

Charles Ashburner of MrFlag.com said sales of St George flags have jumped by 8-10 times since England booked their place in the final.

The National Grid is expecting the game to have a significant effect on electricity use during half time and after the end.

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