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Martin Johnson lifts aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after England

England have the chance to emulate the heroes of 2003 this weekend when they go toe-to-toe with South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

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Only once before – 16 years ago – have England got their hands on the Webb Ellis Cup.

Saturday’s showpiece in Tokyo will be their fourth appearance in the final, and their first since defeat by South Africa in Paris 12 years ago.

Martin Johnson lifts aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after England's triumph in 2003 in Sydney

Martin Johnson lifts aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after England’s triumph in 2003 in Sydney

England's crop of 2019 can match the 2003 vintage with victory over South Africa on Saturday

England's crop of 2019 can match the 2003 vintage with victory over South Africa on Saturday

England’s crop of 2019 can match the 2003 vintage with victory over South Africa on Saturday

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This week the hero of 2003, Jonny Wilkinson, claimed that the current crop under Eddie Jones are better than his all-conquering side.

Jones’ side may not be world champions yet, but Wilkinson said the 2019 vintage are ‘quicker, faster and stronger’ and a more ‘complete’ side.

So is the drop goal expert right? Sportsmail had a look at the side that defeated Australia in Sydney, and compared it to the one that vanquished the All Blacks last weekend… 

Full back 

Josh Lewsey

Nailed down a spot as Sir Clive Woodward’s first-choice full-back in the lead up to the 2003 tournament and repaid the faith with five tries in the pool-stage rout over Uruguay

Elliot Daly

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His electrifying pace and dynamic running is a key feature of Jones’ side, while his long-range kicking ability is a useful tool to call upon.

Verdict: Lewsey 

Josh Lewsey was first-choice full-back in 2003

Josh Lewsey was first-choice full-back in 2003

Elliot Daly's electrifying pace is a key part of Eddie Jones' side

Elliot Daly's electrifying pace is a key part of Eddie Jones' side

Josh Lewsey was first-choice full-back in 2003 while Elliot Daly is a key player of 2019 vintage

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Wing

Jason Robinson

Scored the all-important try in the final. Blessed with blistering speed and a strength that belied his 5ft 8in frame.

Anthony Watson

Only 25 but already a fully established member of Jones’ side and a key part of the Lions’ historic draw in New Zealand two years ago. Has the potential to one day overtake Robinson’s legacy.

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Verdict: Robinson 

Jason Robinson celebrates his try in the 2003 final

Jason Robinson celebrates his try in the 2003 final

Anthony Watson on his way to scoring against Australia

Anthony Watson on his way to scoring against Australia

Jason Robinson (left) scored England’s try in the 2003 final victory over Australia

Outside centre 

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Will Greenwood

England’s second leading tryscorer was pivotal in the run to the 2003 final. His crucial score against Wales swung a tense quarter-final. 

Manu Tuilagi 

Rejuvenated since his recall into the England Test team last year. Always had the talent, and now he is backing it up on the biggest stage.

Verdict: Greenwood 

Will Greenwood is England's second-highest tryscorer

Will Greenwood is England's second-highest tryscorer

Manu Tuilagi scored an early try against the All Blacks

Manu Tuilagi scored an early try against the All Blacks

Will Greenwood (left) and Manu Tuilagi compete for the inside centre spot in this team

Inside centre 

Mike Tindall

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Better known now as a member of the Royal Family, but his partnership with Greenwood in the centre was a foundation of Woodward’s 2003 side.

Owen Farrell

Inheriting the captaincy from Dylan Hartley has taken the dynamic Farrell’s game to another level. His flexibility, allayed with playmaking and kicking ability, make him the side’s lynchin.

Verdict: Farrell 

Mike Tindall is now better known as a member of the Royal Family

Mike Tindall is now better known as a member of the Royal Family

Owen Farrell has inherited the England captaincy from Dylan Hartley
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Owen Farrell has inherited the England captaincy from Dylan Hartley

Owen Farrell (right) offers more dynamism at outside centre than Mike Tindall in 2003

Wing 

Ben Cohen

An ever-present in Woodward’s side, Cohen was a marauding, rampaging winger and racked up 31 tries in his glittering international career.

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Jonny May 

The 29-year-old has Cohen in his sights now after a sensational two years in an England shirt that has seen him plunder 18 tries. His strength, pace and agility are a staple of the England side.

Verdict: Cohen 

Ben Cohen scored 31 tries for England

Ben Cohen scored 31 tries for England

Jonny May has been incredible form for England

Jonny May has been incredible form for England

Ben Cohen edges out Jonny May (right), despite the latter’s sensational run of form

Fly-half 

Jonny Wilkinson

Not just a hero of English rugby, but English sport. His World Cup winning drop-goal in 2003 is etched in national folklore. His kicking ability masked an all-round game that made him one of the best in the world.

George Ford

Has never cemented his place to the extent of Wilkinson – though through no fault of his own. His ability to unlock a game is unquestioned, and England are always a better side with him in. 

Verdict: Wilkinson 

Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning drop-goal in 2003

Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning drop-goal in 2003

George Ford is a key playmaker in the current England side

George Ford is a key playmaker in the current England side

Jonny Wilkinson (left) takes his place in the side for his heroic kicking back in 2003

Scrum-half

Matt Dawson

Unfathomably still a captain on Question of Sport, but his subsequent media career hasn’t wholly overtaken the success of his playing days. He was an instinctive scrum-half whose quick-thinking in the 2003 final helped set up Wilkinson’s winning moment.

Ben Youngs

A veteran of the current England setup and the country’s most capped scrum-half of all time. He has become both a mainstay and a vital cog of Jones’ setup.

Verdict: Youngs 

Matt Dawson was a quick-thinking scrum-half

Matt Dawson was a quick-thinking scrum-half

Ben Youngs is England's most-capped scrum-half

Ben Youngs is England's most-capped scrum-half

Matt Dawson and Ben Youngs battle it out to be fly-half in this composite England team

No 8 

Lawrence Dallaglio

A totemic figure of the victorious 2003 side, the only one to play every single minute of every game. His self-belief and determination set him apart from the rest.   

Billy Vunipola

An uncompromising presence in England’s forward line. Has suffered his fair share of injury problems over the years but improves the side immeasurably when he is available.

Verdict: B Vunipola 

Lawrence Dallaglio pictured in the 2003 final

Lawrence Dallaglio pictured in the 2003 final

Billy Vunipola runs with ball in hand

Billy Vunipola runs with ball in hand

Lawrence Dallaglio and Billy Vunipola are two imposing figures at No 8 for England

Openside flanker 

Neil Back

Outstanding down under in his final tournament as a player, crashing over with two tries on the road to glory in Sydney. 

Sam Underhill

One half of the Kamikaze Kids. Only 23 but has the world at his feet after a blistering show of brawn in the breakdown against the All Blacks.

Verdict: Underhill 

Neil Back during the 2003 semi-final against France

Neil Back during the 2003 semi-final against France

Sam Underhill has enjoyed a sensational rise

Sam Underhill has enjoyed a sensational rise

Neil Back was outstanding in 2003 while Sam Underhill has been integral to England in Japan

Blindside flanker 

Richard Hill

Injury kept him out of most of the 2003 World Cup but he was there when it mattered most in the crucial moments. Outstanding in the final.

Tom Curry

Just 21 but already a sensation in the making. His impressive partnership with Underhill has transformed England over the last 12 months.

Verdict: Curry 

Richard Hill battled injury in the 2003 World Cup

Richard Hill battled injury in the 2003 World Cup

Tom Curry has been a revelation for England

Tom Curry has been a revelation for England

Richard Hill was a veteran in 2003 while Tom Curry is just at the start of his playing days

Second row 

Ben Kay

A lineout master in 2003, he missed just one game on the road to victory. Unfortunate knock-on in the final almost scuppered England’s chances. 

Courtney Lawes

A veteran of the side with a decade’s worth of experience now, he is a versatile and powerful forward who has finally found his home.

Verdict: Lawes

Ben Kay missed just one of England's games in 2003

Ben Kay missed just one of England's games in 2003

Courtney Lawes offers England huge experience

Courtney Lawes offers England huge experience

Ben Kay and Courtney Lawes are vital members of both England World Cup sides

Lock

Martin Johnson 

A force of will and nature. Johnson moulded the 2003 side with his on-field leadership. It was the crowning moment of a glorious career. 

Maro Itoje  

One day the 25-year-old could rival Johnson’s on-field bravado. His agility and mobility make him one of the most dynamic forwards in the game. 

Verdict: Johnson

Martin Johnson captained England to glory in 2003

Martin Johnson captained England to glory in 2003

Maro Itoje is a dynamic part of the current side

Maro Itoje is a dynamic part of the current side

Martin Johnson’s leadership qualities trump the dynamism of Maro Itoje in this team

Tighthead Prop

Phil Vickery

Played in every game and performed with distinction. Success in Australia proved the centre point of a successful 12-year international career. 

Kyle Sinckler

Australia played on his reputation as a hothead in the quarter-final, but he is a player both reformed and transformed in this World Cup campaign. 

Verdict: Vickery 

Phil Vickery runs with ball in hand

Phil Vickery runs with ball in hand

Kyle Sinckler is a key man for Jones' England

Kyle Sinckler is a key man for Jones' England

Phil Vickery and Kyle Sinckler go head-to-head for the role of tighthead prop

Hooker 

Steve Thompson

Arrived into the side ahead of the World Cup and looked at home straight away. Enjoyed a long and successful international career even after the high of 2003. 

Jamie George 

Finally established himself as first-choice now ahead of Dylan Hartley after years of being a specialist finisher for Jones.

Verdict: George 

Steve Thompson came into the side in 2003

Steve Thompson came into the side in 2003

Jamie George has finally established himself this year

Jamie George has finally established himself this year

Steve Thompson and Jamie George established themselves in buildup to both tournaments

Loosehead Prop

Trevor Woodman

Enjoyed a stop-start international career but peaked for the World Cup in 2003, here he became a key member of the starting XV. 

Mako Vunipola

A hulking presence in England’s forward line, Vunipola fully established himself as a key player under Jones early on and hasn’t looked back. 

Verdict: M Vunipola 

Trevor Woodman enjoyed a stop-start career

Trevor Woodman enjoyed a stop-start career

Mako Vunipola in action against New Zealand

Mako Vunipola in action against New Zealand

Mako Vunipola (right) had had a huge influence on the current England team under Jones

The Final XV

Players from 2003: Lewsey, Robinson, Greenwood, Cohen, Wilkinson, Johnson, Vickery

Players from 2019: Farrell, Youngs, B Vunipola, Underhill, Curry, Lawes, George, M Vunipola