England's rugby World Cup winners are honoured

Matthew Beard
Wednesday 31 December 2003 01:00

All 31 members of England's World Cup-winning rugby squad have been decorated, a month after vanquishing Australia in Sydney.

Clive Woodward, the head coach, receives a knighthood, and Martin Johnson, the captain, a CBE. Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Leonard, the record-breaking prop, become OBEs.

Francis Baron, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, receives an OBE and every other member of the squad, including the reserves and specialist coaches, is recognised with MBEs.

Downing Street indicated that the Prime Minister had insisted the names of England's rugby heroes be included in the New Year list. A spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister felt it was important that their fantastic achievement should be marked as soon as possible."

Woodward, speaking during an overseas holiday, said he was "honoured and delighted" at joining an elite club of sporting knights normally dominated by illustrious figures from football such as some of the winners of the 1966 football World Cup. He said: "It is also a tribute to every member of the squad, the coaches, management and the Zurich Premiership clubs, who have all made a significant contribution to our success."

Among the other notable awards in a list dominated by rugby union, were OBEs for Martin O'Neill, the manager of Celtic Football Club, which reached last season's Uefa Cup final, and Tim Henman, Britain's leading tennis player.

Downing Street denied press reports before the honours announcement that Henman, who has disappointed an army of fans by failing to reach a Wimbledon final, was included simply to add interest. The spokeswoman said: "Henman is one of the best players Britain has produced for many years and he has been rewarded for his successes."

The former boxer Michael Watson, who marked his gradual rehabilitation since suffering brain damage in the ring by completing this year's London marathon in a week, is made an MBE for services to disabled sport.

The Scottish yachtswoman Emma Richards, a columnist for The Independent and the first woman to finish the single-handed round-the-world yacht race, is also awarded an MBE.

The Olympic javelin gold medallist Tessa Sanderson receives a CBE for her work as the vice-chairman of Sport England, which funds grassroots projects.

The cricketer Mark Alleyne, who is the captain of Gloucestershire, and the swimmers James Gibson and Katy Sexton receive MBEs.

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