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Millar hails the best ever World Cup

By Gavin Mairs

The hype and fever of the build-up to Saturday's World Cup final in Paris has been heightened by IRB chairman Syd Millar's claims that this campaign has been the best in the 20-year history of the tournament.

Millar, the former Ulster, Ireland and Lions prop forward, paid tribute to the efforts of all 20 participants, who have brought both memorable moments of colour and thrilling entertainment to France over the last six weeks.

And he believes the final can provide the icing to the cake for the tournament which is expected to rake in over £100m in profits which the IRB will reinvest in the global game.

"Twenty teams arrived here with the ambition to reach the final stages but, after an exciting festival of rugby, some nail-biting finishes and some unexpected results, we have arrived at the final stages of the most successful Rugby World Cup," said Millar.

"I would like to congratulate all participants and, of course, those who have arrived at the final stages of the competition.

"England have, perhaps, surprised their supporters, but their performances have improved with each game. They are there by right.

"They are still the holders of the World Cup and South Africa, a proud rugby nation with a great rugby past, will be determined to bring the Cup to South Africa. I wish both teams well. I hope we will have a game to savour and remember."

One of the players who is expected to light up the Stade de France on Saturday night is Springbok wing Bryan Habana, whose brace of tries against Argentina on Sunday night helped book a place in the final.

Habana has already equalled Jonah Lomu's tournament record of eight tries at a World Cup, but the 24-year-old flying machine expects a completely different challenge from England from their woeful showing in the 36-0 victory in the pool stage.

"Four weeks ago, Jonny Wilkinson wasn't playing," said Habana.

"England had a few problems at 10 and 12 for that game with injuries, and it is going to be a totally different ball game this time around.

"England have shown in the last two weeks they are capable of winning in pressure situations, and there are many guys involved who were part of their 2003 World Cup-winning squad, which has been coming through strongly.

"What happened four weeks ago has got no meaning with regard to next weekend. It is going to be a lot tougher, but we are going to put everything into it.

"We are expecting a different England team. It is a final, a win or lose-all situation, and the English have proved in the last two or three weeks they are really good in those situations.

"The pool game was a game we really targeted, but England have shown their strength. They are world champions, and you have got to respect that fact."

England, however, are going to have to find a way of taming the Blue Bulls star who has now scored 30 tries in just 34 caps.

"We've got one hurdle left now for our goal we've worked towards for the past four years, and it is great I can make a contribution," he added.

"While I am really chuffed to have equalled the (Lomu's) record, what is more important to me is that I am making a contribution to this Springboks side. I am looking forward to maybe making one or two more contributions next Saturday

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