Rugby Union: YOU ONLY WIN TWICE; 80 MINUTES FROM HISTORY WORLD CUP FINAL: ENGLAND V SOUTH AFRICA TONIGHT AT THE STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS, KICK-OFF 8PM LIVE ON ITV 1 iRB RUGBY WORLD CUP 2007 FRANCE James Bond Tells Stars to Go for Oh, Oh Heaven

The Mirror (London, England), October 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

Rugby Union: YOU ONLY WIN TWICE; 80 MINUTES FROM HISTORY WORLD CUP FINAL: ENGLAND V SOUTH AFRICA TONIGHT AT THE STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS, KICK-OFF 8PM LIVE ON ITV 1 iRB RUGBY WORLD CUP 2007 FRANCE James Bond Tells Stars to Go for Oh, Oh Heaven


Byline: Alex Spink RUGBY CORRESPONDENT

ENGLAND'S rugby heroes have been licensed to kill off South Africa today and make history for the nation by 007.

James Bond actor Daniel Craig phoned boss Brian Ashton yesterday to wish the team well and was joined in the supporting cast by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

A spokesman for the Queen also confirmed she had sent a private message to the squad which was intended to be read to the side by Ashton before kick-off.

Thirty six days after England were beaten 36-0 by the Springboks at Stade de France, the two teams return to the same pitch for the biggest rematch of them all.

England, reborn after four straight wins, are underdogs but will take inspiration from a famous line from Sir Winston Churchill, which Brown quoted in his letter to the squad: "Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others."

A shocked Ashton said: "Never in my life have I expected to get a letter from No.10 Downing Street.

"The amount of support we've received is completely staggering and is a massive, massive boost to us all."

No country has ever won back-to-back titles and England were the last nation anyone would believe could do so given their four years of failure.

They came into the World Cup ranked seventh in the world, with only four wins away from Twickenham since Martin Johnson lifted the Webb Ellis trophy aloft in Sydney in 2003.

They then escaped to victory against the United States before being blown to smithereens by the Springboks.

At that time Ashton's decision to adopt Muhammad Ali's famous "defy the impossible, shock the world" slogan as England's campaign motto appeared laughable.

Yet since that day England have done exactly that. Small steps to begin with, an unconvincing win against Samoa, followed by a slightly more impressive defeat of Tonga.

Then came the big strides against Australia and France, nights on which England's world beaters dusted down their reputations and stood tall.

First among equals was Jonny Wilkinson who displayed an assassin's touch with the boot of which 007 himself would have been proud.

Sure enough Craig contacted Ashton asking him to "pass on my best wishes to the rest of the team".

He added: "I'm filming in Lithuania at the moment, unfortunately I can't be there and I won't see it on TV".

According to Ashton, the actor is a massive England rugby fan, and he is not alone after a campaign which has taught us all to never say never again.

The news that Mike Catt had passed a fitness test on his groin yesterday and takes his place alongside Wilkinson was yet another reason to be cheerful for the estimated 50,000 England fans converging on Paris.

And last night Ashton warned the Springboks that he had a couple of tricks up his sleeve which he intends his side to play this evening.

"This week has been a question of fine tuning one or two things and working out with the players what we want to do," he said.

"There are one or two changes planned which I will keep to myself - possibly things you haven't seen before."

There is a real sense that England have the momentum behind them and believe it is their destiny to avenge that fright night against the Boks five weeks ago. …

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