Jason Robinson, the former England rugby captain who defied expectations by playing in the team that reached the World Cup finals is rewarded with an OBE today, while his fellow World Cup hero and head coach Brian Ashton receives an MBE.
At just 5ft 8in, Robinson was one of the game's fastest and most exhilarating players to watch during his 15-year career which ended earlier this year he retired from the game after England's defeat to South Africa in the finals. A former Rugby League star before converting to Rugby Union, Robinson became the first mixed-race player and the first former rugby leaguer to lead England on to the field after being appointed captain to replace an injured Jonny Wilkinson in 2003.
The former Sale Sharks captain had already been awarded an MBE when he helped England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup and this year's accolade will top that.
Much of the credit for the team's surprisingly good form this summer lay also with head coach Ashton, who managed to turn the England team into World Cup runners-up. Also widely credited as the man who persuaded Robinson to return to the England side, Ashton had the unenviable task of turning round a team in disarray. His predecessor, Andy Robinson, had been shelved following a string of miserable results and defeats, and Ashton had barely eight months to pick up the pieces and orchestrate a meaningful World Cup defence. Speaking in response to his MBE , Ashton said: "I am honoured and privileged to receive an MBE. This award is not just for me but for all who have been involved and helped me throughout my rugby career." He has since retained his head coaching position for the 2008 season.
Other sportsmen and women honoured in this year's list include John Higgins, the current world professional snooker champion, and Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who captained the England cricket team when they won the inaugural women's World Cup in 1973 and were unbeaten in six test series.
Brendan Foster, an Olympic medallist and the founder of the Great North Run, has been made CBE. The Leeds Metropolitan University chancellor won bronze in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal in the 10,000m and became a regular athletics commentator for the BBC before deciding to set up the Great North Run in 1981. The charity marathon is now only second to the London marathon in number of contenders.
Gordon Taylor, the long-serving chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, also receives an OBE while Peter Jones, formerly chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board (the Tote) receives a CBE for services to racing.