Inside England's Rugby World Cup win 20 years on as Prince Harry plays bongos - EXCLUSIVE

EXCLUSIVE: England won the Rugby World Cup on this day in 2003 - Express Sport's chief writer Neil Squires reminisces with their heroes about that memorable day

England's team poses with the Webb Ellis

England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup. (Image: Getty)

Twenty years ago on November 22, won the on an unforgettably dramatic night in Sydney at Stadium Australia in front of 82,597 spellbound fans. They remain the only northern hemisphere side to have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup. Express Sport's chief sportswriter Neil Squires scrolls back through that extra time victory over Australia with some of the heroes of ‘03, including a memorable tale involving

The build-up

Labelled ‘Dad’s Army’ by the Australian media, Clive Woodward’s vastly experienced England team arrived Down Under as Six Nations champions and favourites for the tournament. After being given a fright by Wales in the quarterfinal, England swept aside France in the rain to set up the dream final against a Wallabies side coached by Eddie Jones.

Jason Robinson - “We knew what it was like to beat New Zealand in New Zealand and Australia in Australia. There was a quiet confidence that we could finish the job. There was almost a calm about us. Just looking around the group we knew we could win that final. This was what all the hard work was for.”

Trevor Woodman - “We were staying in Manly in a hotel with a balcony that looked out at the beach. I remember the Australian supporters were there on the day of the game singing Waltzing Matilda to try to get into our heads.”

Australia v England 2003

Rugby World Cup: England beat Australia in the 2003 final. (Image: Getty)

The final

After Australia took a shock early lead through a try by Lote Tuqiri, England hit back with one of their own from Jason Robinson and raced into a 14-5 half time lead.

Jason Robinson - “Lawrence (Dallaglio) made a half break and passed to Jonny (Wilkinson). We'd worked for years on having somebody either side in support and I was lucky enough that it came my way. It could so easily have been Ben Cohen's try but it went to me and I just had to get a shift on.”

However, England could never quite get out of range and with South African referee Andre Watson mystifyingly penalising a dominant England scrum, Elton Flatley kept the Wallabies in it in the second half. When he landed a pressure kick in the last minute to level the scores at 14-14 the contest went to extra time.

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2003 Rugby World Cup - Final - Australia vs. England

England beat Australia 20-17 thanks to Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal. (Image: Getty)

Ben Kay - “Clive came over with his eyeballs bulging out of his head but Martin Johnson sent him away because he didn't want that stress passing onto us.

“Johnno didn't make a Churchillian speech, he just said: 'We've had eight weeks to win a World Cup, it's come down to 80 minutes tonight and it hasn't quite worked. But if someone had given us scores level against Australia in the final with 20 minutes left to play we'd have bitten their hand off.'

“We had a massive amount of belief in the squad. Our style of play worked for knockout rugby and a huge thing was that we knew we had Jonny's ability to drop a goal in the locker.”

Wilkinson and Flatley exchanged penalties and as the tension became almost unbearable, England called their drop goal play - coded Zigzag - from a lineout as the final went into its last extraordinary moments.

Ben Kay - “To be fair to Clive, through years of build-up to the World Cup we would finish lots of training sessions with our drop goal strategy. When we were saying: 'for f***'s sake, not again', he would say: 'well it might come down to it in the last minute of a World Cup final.' Everyone knew their role absolutely off by heart.

“The lineout hadn’t gone well for us. We had been training at the Manly Sea Eagles ground that week and right next to it was a bank of houses on a hillside that overlooks it. We tried to find a corner where we might not be seen to do our lineout practice in the week leading up to it but let's just say the Aussies were quite well versed with someone's window on that side!

“Steve Thompson was a bit nervous when I called that throw to the back but we knew he would be able to throw it into Lewis Moody’s chest if he wanted because there would be no-one up for it on the Australian side. They would be marking the middle. That's what happened.”

English winger Jason Robinson scores a t

Jason Robinson: The England winger revealed he had the best view in the house for Wilkinson's kick. (Image: Getty)

Possession secured, Mike Catt smashed into the heart of Australia’s defence but England still weren’t in comfortable range. That was when Matt Dawson made his move.

Matt Dawson - “The night before the game Paul Grayson wrote me a letter and put it under my door. In that letter was personal stuff describing our friendship but also him saying he was convinced that if I was in the right zone, because the focus was on Jonny, there would be an opportunity for me to do something.

“Australia were under a lot of pressure, they were thinking: 's***, this is it they are going for the drop goal' so the world was looking at Jonny. I was analysing all of that. They jumped the gun, I made the ten yards and then we were all set up for the drop goal.”

2003 Rugby World Cup - Final Australia vs. England

England: Jonny Wilkinson's heroics clinched the win. (Image: Getty)

One more carry from Johnson and Dawson was able to fizz the pass back to the waiting Wilkinson. He had missed with two drop goals earlier in the game but, with 30 seconds, he wasn’t about to miss the one that mattered.

Jason Robinson - “I had one of the best seats in the house for the drop goal. I was doing a very poor effort as a ruck guard. What a beautiful sight it was. There was a two-second celebration then we had to get back. For the first time in that game we were out of position. Australia kick off and Trevor Woodman, who is smaller than me, ends up catching it.”

Trevor Woodman - “The problem for Australia was that they didn't send the right person to chase it. Phil Waugh was after it and he was shorter than me! If it had been Lote Tuqiri he'd have won it easily!”

Ball unconventionally secured, England worked the ball back to Catt and with a lazy stroke of his right foot put it the pitch to end the game. England were world champions.

Jason Robinson - “I can't explain the mixture of emotions in that moment. I've been in a lot of pressure games in rugby union and rugby league but no game has ever come close to the pressure of that one. In that moment it all released. There was ecstasy, relief, all sorts.”

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Prince Harry: The Duke of Sussex played the bongos during England's celebrations. (Image: Getty)

Prince Harry plays the bongos

The party afterwards in the Cargo Club at Darling Harbour was as epic as the game itself. At one point Dallaglio was playing the bongos with Prince Harry. But an exhausted Wilkinson, after a celebratory coke, made his excuses and left early. Robinson too.

Jason Robinson - “I didn't go out. It was a bit too wild for me. It was ridiculously late anyway. If I'd have gone out with the boys I probably wouldn't have been seen again. Jason Leonard – The Fun Bus – and Mike Tindall would have destroyed me. I lived to tell the tale.”

By hook or by crook so did the rest, heading home as conquering heroes.

Ben Kay - “I think Tinds tried to beat David Boon's drinking record on the flight home. He wasn't in a good state by Singapore.”

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