37 years on, a delighted nation has sweet success to savour. For those who achieved it, life will never be the same again

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The Independent Online

England's new celebrity rugby heroes were enjoying, or perhaps enduring, the first day of the rest of their lives here yesterday.

Police had to put barriers in front of the team hotel after thousands of England fans flocked to see the World Cup winners in the normally tranquil surfers' resort of Manly.

The England players, who beat Australia 20-17 in the last seconds of extra time before 82,000 fans on Saturday, were given rapturous applause when they stepped on to the balcony of the Pacific International Hotel and, inevitably, the greatest cheer came when Jonny Wilkinson - the "new David Beckham" breathed one young female England fan quite heavily - took his bow, shyly.

Wilkinson, whose drop goal delivered English sport's most thrilling moment since England's football team scored their extra-time triumph over Germany in 1966, is being besieged by sponsorship offers and previous projections of a new annual income of £5m-plus are being doubled.

He has been front-page news for weeks in Australia. Though he lacks impact in the North American and Far East markets, where rugby has little or no profile, he has plainly become the most marketable rugby player in the game.

Nowhere was the new status of the 24-year-old "Wilko" more evident than inside the besieged team hotel. Will Greenwood, the centre threequarter who also produced an outstanding performance, was surrounded by journalists and TV crews one moment. Then Wilkinson walked into the rooom and Greenwood's audience had all but gone. He said to one interrogator who lingered: "He'll be able to handle it very well. He lives for the game."

Greenwood, who at an earlier stage of his own "stardom" dyed his hair blond, said he would settle for relative anonymity. "I think I feel like all the lads, we just want to enjoy every second of the next 24, 48 hours - we want to suck it all in, we don't want any of it to slide by.

"I suppose I'll come to have one overwhelming memory of how it was to be in the stadium last night, but in the meantime it's just a great big brilliant jumble. When the final whistle went, I didn't quite know what to do. So I ran to one of my team-mates, I don't remember which, and hugged him.

"You can't get me to compare [the 1966] World Cup with this one ... as a mad football fan [he supports Manchester City], I don't need to be told that in 1966 England were winners in the global game, but I'm sure this is going to do a lot for the profile of our game in England. It has been the greatest privilege of my life, working with these guys all this time and finally getting there and winning the big one.

"Jonny, naturally, is getting all the attention. But for all of us the big man is Martin Johnson. As a captain and leader, he has been unbelievable and when he was given his medal the team cheered him to a man."

Johnson, the 34-year-old captain who among the rugby cognescenti is regarded as the man of the tournament, isn't saying whether he will walk away from the international game. "I'm enjoying the moment now, but to be honest I just want to get home. It's been a long road," he said.

"In a few months' time I will look at my situation, talk to a few relevant people, and then decide whether to make myself available for the first Six Nations game in Rome next January."

One hero reluctant to bathe in the limelight was Jason Robinson, England's try-scorer in the final. He has been angered by news that several newspapers have been pursuing the mother of his child born before his marriage. He is, however, likely to agree to a request from his publishers for a World Cup chapter to be rushed out for insertion in a reprinted edition of his recent autobiography.

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