Epic final puts polish on RWC - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Epic final puts polish on RWC

By Michael Donaldson 23/11/2003 07:41:34 PM Comments (0)

An epic final, scripted to perfection by the rugby gods and iced by the game's golden boy provided a fitting conclusion to the most memorable Rugby World Cup tournament in history.

England cemented its title as the undisputed heavyweight champion of world rugby when Jonny Wilkinson calmly kicked the winning field goal as the 100th minute ticked away in the extra-time finale against defending champion Australia.

The 20-17 win delivered the Webb Ellis Trophy to the northern hemisphere for the first time since the World Cup was born in 1987.

The exemplary Wilkinson, the tournament's top scorer with 113 points, is set to make millions out his career-crowning moment yet his wealth also illustrates the money gulf rugby union has to address before the next tournament.

Wilkinson's annual income could fund a team like Samoa, Georgia or Namibia for the next four years and never has the gap between the rich and poor nations been so harshly demonstrated as at this World Cup.

As the coaches, players and technical advisors sit down to plan the next four year cycle before France 2007, the onus is on administrators in Dublin and Sydney to make sure the game continues to grow.

The 48-game tournament attracted 1.8 million spectators in Australia and organisers said the final was watched by 300 million television viewers worldwide.

With the International Rugby Board pocketing the TV revenue and the Australia Rugby Union grabbing $40m million from ticket sales both organisations have a huge opportunity to develop the game in their respective domains.

The IRB has vowed to use the massive profit it will make from the tournament to develop the mid-ranked nations - teams like Japan, Samoa, Fiji, Canada, the United States, Italy and Uruguay - in order to make the tournament more competitive in the future.

It's a need clearly defined by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, who wants to see the second tier teams vying for quarterfinal places in 2007.

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