'I'm gutted but it's brilliant. I'm just glad I'm not in Australia'

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"I'm gutted. Just gutted," said Nick James, 35, one of nearly 1,000 Australia fans crammed into the Walkabout pub in Covent Garden yesterday. But as the final whistle blew, and Mr James sank the remains of his pint - one of the 5,000 drunk in the pub during the morning - he became more circumspect.

"England has put up with so much over the years and you've just got to listen to the noise from the English guys here to see what it means for your country," he said. "I'm gutted but I think it's brilliant. I'm just glad I'm not in Australia."

Mr James was not alone. "The best team won," admitted Chereen Edwards, 25, from Perth. "Well, the best guy won - Jonny Wilkinson was your team. I feel sad, though. We lost." Shannon Sears, 25, was also trying to focus on the positives. "What's losing anyway? We came second - that's not losing," she insisted. "I'm still proud to be an Aussie, and that's what counts."

Jodie McMahon had flown over from Italy specially for the game. "There is no atmosphere in Italy," she said. "There are more Aussies here. Defeat was disappointing but at least I'm not in Australia. It will be worse there."

Her friends also tried to look on the bright side. "It's good for the game, really," insisted Stephen Morgan, 27, from Sydney. "And it has united our nation - losing to our oldest foe." His wife, Karina, 23, wasn't so sure. "I'm just devastated I got up so early," she said.

Still, it seemed to be impossible to find an Australian too devastated to find a bright side to look on. "I'm not gutted," claimed Lisa Cunnington, 22, from Brisbane. "I wish the English would find their own pub, though," she said, glaring at the drunks warbling through their umpteenth rendition of "Swing Low".

At last, though, an Australian with a tear in his eye. "I can't explain how I feel," said Gary Wambeek, an 18-year-old draped in the Australian flag, studying in Bedford. "I'm absolutely gutted - we're just not used to losing to the Poms. I'm going to get so much stick back at university."