Mako Vunipola England vs South Africa: Lawrence Dallaglio on how Eddie Jones’ men can eclipse the World Cup magic of ’03

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You’d think it wouldn’t get much better than the heights of 2003: a last-minute drop-kick, victory over Australia in their own backyard and a first taste of World Cup glory.

The sight of it all, from the moment the ball first left Wilkinson’s boot, is etched permanently into the memory of every English fan old enough to remember such a spectacle. The mad scramble that followed the restart (“The worst kick-off I’ve ever seen from England’s point of view,” Sir Clive Woodward later said). Will Greenwood at first receiver and on all fours. Mike Catt’s looping kick for touch. Wilkinson’s arms raised above his head, scarcely able to believe it all. Then the relief of the referee’s whistle and the rushing ecstasy.Surelythat can’t be topped?

“Yes, 100%,” says Lawrence Dallaglio, addressing whether victory on Saturday would eclipse the success of the ‘03 team. According to the former international, England have the chance to reach new, previously unscaled heights. “If they win the World Cup, which they’ve got every chance of doing, it will probably be the best World Cup win ever,” he says. “To win a World Cup you need to win seven games, normally two of them tend to be against southern hemisphere opponents.

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“But for them to do back to back, all three, I’m not sure what you could call that: a try nations? It’s pretty impressive, but they’ve got one more to go. It’d be an amazing achievement.

“If they go on and win it – and it’s going to be a very tough game, to have played the three southern hemisphere teams in consecutive weekends – I don’t think anyone could deny that they wouldn’t deserve to win the World Cup.”

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