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London cheers rugby heroes

England
England's players brought London to a halt.

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Special Report: Rugby World Cup 

LONDON, England -- Huge crowds filled central London on Monday for a parade to mark England's victory at the Rugby World Cup, bringing the city to a halt.

Up to half a million people were estimated to have turned out for a glimpse of England hero Jonny Wilkinson and his teammates as they show off the William Webb Ellis Trophy from open-topped buses.

The parade, christened "Sweet Chariot" after the anthem sung by English rugby supporters, travelled from Oxford Street towards a rally in Trafalgar Square.

The team then met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace before attending a reception at 10 Downing Street hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Despite cold weather, fans arrived early to be sure of finding a space along the route which closed off several of London's busiest streets, playing havoc with traffic. Some slept overnight in Trafalgar Square to be sure of a good vantage point.

"Monday has been a great day of celebration and an occasion for everyone to enjoy," said London Mayor Ken Livingston, who hosted the team's arrival in Trafalgar Square.

"It's been incredible, it's been awesome, absolutely mind-blowing," captain Martin Johnson told the crowd in Trafalgar Square after showing off the cup.

"It's been unbelievable," said back row star Lawrence Dallaglio. "We were very overwhelmed and humbled by our welcome at Heathrow but this is a great, great day, a chance for the whole country to celebrate.

"It's an opportunity for them to get out to show their pride and do something the English don't do very well, that's pat themselves on the back."

But the biggest ovations were for Wilkinson, whose drop kick in injury time provided the winning points and made him a national idol along the lines of football star David Beckham.

"We're overwhelmed by all this support," Wilkinson said. "It matters so much to us to know that everyone's really behind the cause and what we are doing. Being on this bus now is one of the greatest moments of my life."

At the palace, the players chatted with the queen, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Prince William. They also sat for a team photo with the queen sitting between Johnson and coach Clive Woodward.

England's 20-17 win in the final against hosts Australia in Sydney last month nation was the first major success for a British team in a major international event since England's footballers beat Germany in the final of the 1966 World Cup.


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