Rugby World Cup Final ball
Rugby World Cup Final ball 2003
Lenght 29 cm
Diameter at centre 19,1 cm
Weight 435 g
Just like George Hurst in ’66, England hero Jonny Wilkinson somehow contrived to leave the scene of his World Cup winning triumph in Sydney in November 2003 without the match ball. Or rather, without any one of the five balls during that most auspicious of games (won England in the final seconds, courtesy of a Wilkinson drop goal).
Instead, one of the five reportedly spirited away by a fan – rumour has it from Wigan – when Jason Robinson punched the ball into the crowd in delight after scoring a 38th minute try. The other four, each signed by the referee as proof of authenticity, were handed over to a Sydney firm, Legends Genuine Memorabilia, who had bought the rights to the balls beforehand and offered them as prizes in a ballot costing around GBP 400 a pop.
But when one of the winners put his ball up for sale on e-Bay days later – amid reports that it could fetch up to GBP 500,000 – the scent was laid…
In 1996 it fell to the Daily Mirror to bring home Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick ball from Germany. In December 2003 it was the turn of The Sun.
But which of the four was match winner?
Off to Sydney a crack team of Wapping’s finest pleading Poms thus jetted, cheque books in hand.Tree of the ball winners soon persuaded. A fourth, self-confessed ‘memorabilis nut’ played harder to get, finally settling for two other signed balls in return. Then it was back to Blighty, with all four Gilberts strapped into the very same seat Wilkinson had occupied weeks earlier on an aptly named British Airways Jumbo, Sweet Chariot.
‘Delighted Jonny, 24′ was presented with one of the balls by the jubiliant Sun. Capitan Martin Johnson received another, as did a Sun competition winner, weeks later. The fourth – shown here – is on display in the Museum of Rugby at Twickenham.
But which was the actual one Jonny kicked for victory? No one, it seems, will ever know for sure.