Prepare for a maul: rugby stars are given a parade through London

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The Independent Online

England's Rugby World Cup winners will parade through London next month before meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at 10 Downing Street.

Having brought country to a standstill for the best part of two hours during last Saturday's epic 20-17 extra-time win over Australia in Sydney, Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson and their team-mates will now be bringing part of the capital to a halt. Thousands of fans are expected to line the streets of London as the squad stages what has already been dubbed "the Sweet Chariot victory tour" on Monday, 8 December.

The 30-man squad, coach Clive Woodward and the William Webb Ellis trophy will set off in two open-topped buses at midday from Marble Arch, taking in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Haymarket before arriving in Trafalgar Square at 1pm. The roads along the route will be closed to traffic for the one-hour parade.

The event will culminate in an audience with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and a reception with the Prime Minister at Downing Street, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said last night.

The team's triumph was the first time in 37 years England had won a World Cup title in any major sport. In 1966, England captured football's World Cup, but the official celebrations were subdued. The country has learned to party a lot more since.

The effect of the win on the nation was reflected in the appearance of 8,000 fans at Heathrow on Tuesday morning to welcome the team's pre-dawn arrival home.

Setting up the parade involved days of negotiation with the RFU, the Metropolitan Police, Mayor Ken Livingstone and Westminster Council.

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