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.
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
England’s crop of 2019 can match the 2003 vintage with victory over South Africa on Saturday
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…
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
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.
Josh Lewsey was first-choice full-back in 2003 while Elliot Daly is a key player of 2019 vintage
Scored the all-important try in the final. Blessed with blistering speed and a strength that belied his 5ft 8in frame.
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.
Jason Robinson (left) scored England’s try in the 2003 final victory over Australia
England’s second leading tryscorer was pivotal in the run to the 2003 final. His crucial score against Wales swung a tense quarter-final.
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.
Will Greenwood (left) and Manu Tuilagi compete for the inside centre spot in this team
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.
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.
Owen Farrell (right) offers more dynamism at outside centre than Mike Tindall in 2003
An ever-present in Woodward’s side, Cohen was a marauding, rampaging winger and racked up 31 tries in his glittering international career.
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.
Ben Cohen edges out Jonny May (right), despite the latter’s sensational run of form
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.
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.
Jonny Wilkinson (left) takes his place in the side for his heroic kicking back in 2003
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.
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.
Matt Dawson and Ben Youngs battle it out to be fly-half in this composite England team
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.
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 and Billy Vunipola are two imposing figures at No 8 for England
Outstanding down under in his final tournament as a player, crashing over with two tries on the road to glory in Sydney.
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.
Neil Back was outstanding in 2003 while Sam Underhill has been integral to England in Japan
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.
Just 21 but already a sensation in the making. His impressive partnership with Underhill has transformed England over the last 12 months.
Richard Hill was a veteran in 2003 while Tom Curry is just at the start of his playing days
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.
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.
Ben Kay and Courtney Lawes are vital members of both England World Cup sides
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.
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.
Martin Johnson’s leadership qualities trump the dynamism of Maro Itoje in this team
Played in every game and performed with distinction. Success in Australia proved the centre point of a successful 12-year international career.
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.
Phil Vickery and Kyle Sinckler go head-to-head for the role of tighthead prop
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.
Finally established himself as first-choice now ahead of Dylan Hartley after years of being a specialist finisher for Jones.
Steve Thompson and Jamie George established themselves in buildup to both tournaments
Enjoyed a stop-start international career but peaked for the World Cup in 2003, here he became a key member of the starting XV.
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
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