Mako Vunipola Rugby World Cup 2019: How England’s heroes of 2003 match up to the current crop

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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… 

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

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 while Elliot Daly is a key player of 2019 vintage


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.

Verdict: Robinson 

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

Outside centre 

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

Inside centre 

Mike Tindall

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 dynami

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