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Home > Sports > News > Reuters > Report

Woodward looks ahead to 'dream final'

Julian Linden in Sydney | November 16, 2003 22:16 IST

Triumphant England coach Clive Woodward described next week'srugby World Cup final against Australia as a dream match after his team defeated France 24-7 in Sunday's second semi-final.

Royal pleasure: Prince Harry celebrates the England win"If someone would have asked me six weeks ago what was my dream final, I would have said Australia versus England," Woodward said.

"We have won our last four matches against them, but that won't have any bearing on Saturday night.

"This is a one-off for both teams and it's going to be a great game."

Woodward paid tribute to his players for the way they efficiently beat off the French challenge in treacherous wind and rain that made ball-handling almost impossible.

France scored the only try of the match through winger Serge Betsen, but the reliable boots of flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson steered England to a thoroughly deserved win.

"Tonight we played the conditions and we played pretty well," Woodward said. "It's not about adapting the game plan [for rain]. A lot of the game is common sense. I am confident this team can beat anyone, anywhere, at any time, in any conditions."

England captain Martin Johnson, an imposing figure in the forward clashes as always, said his team had gone about their job ruthlessly and efficiently.

Rugby World Cup 2003 SFs

Wilkinson kicks England into the final

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"It doesn't matter if we won ugly, it's all about winning," Johnson said. "We would have liked to have scored a try, but, oh well, we are into the final.
We have got the chance to play for the ultimate prize in the sport, so we have to keep our feet on the ground."

England have been the dominant team in world rugby for the past year, but came under fire for their scratchy performance in last weekend's quarter-final win over Wales, when they conceded three tries.

"We've been getting some stick this week, some of it undue, I think, but we came through," Johnson said.

"When you get to this stage of the tournament, [mental strength] is as big a factor as the physical side.

"You saw Australia. They ground down New Zealand. We were down 7-3 and we too had to grind out a win."

Wilkinson, in particular, came under fire for his performance against the Welsh, but answered his critics in the most emphatic way, booting five penalties and three drop goals to score all of his team's points.

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"When I represent my country I am everyone's property and everyone is allowed their opinion," he said.

"It is satisfying, that's for sure. I have not read the papers since I have been here, so I have not been aware of any comments.

"I just try to please the rest of my teammates with my performances."

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