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Premiership Rugby

Wilkinson returns to the Palace to collect MBE

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The Newcastle Falcons fly-half has been hailed as a national hero since his last-gasp drop-goal clinched the Rugby World Cup for England, but this award was meted out by Buckingham Palace back in the Queen's New Year's Honours list.

Since that time Wilkinson has collected a Rugby World Cup winners' medal, his first Six Nations Grand Slam and was part of an unbeaten England tour to Australia and New Zealand.

Given his bountiful year, many commentators believe that Wilkinson will soon be returning to Buckingham Palace to receiving an upgrade to his 'gong'.

Before his England's World Cup heroics Wilkinson could have walked down his local High Street without as much a tap on the shoulder, but the fly-half returned from Australia to an unfamiliar land where the paparazzi trail his every move.

A measure of his new-found fame was the live coverage that Sky News afforded the player's arrival and departure from the Palace, an 'honour' not even bestowed to England football captain and global icon David Beckham when he received his OBE last month.

Even uber-famous Mick Jagger appears to have bowed before the boy king – the Rolling Stones star was scheduled to receive his knighthood in Wednesday's ceremony but opted to switch dates in order to avoid the "media scrum" that he felt a clash with Wilkinson would generate.

Having referred to Wilkinson as the "the man of the moment", it is thought that the singer made the decision to step aside in order to let the rugby player enjoy his moment in solitary splendour.

Jagger will now become Sir Mick on December 12.

"This is a massive honour for me and it might take as long to sink in as our win in the World Cup," Wilkinson told a host of waiting reporters and photographers.

"It has come as a huge surprise. I have just always wanted to be a rugby player and never expected to be here.

"When the Queen gave me my MBE, she said how much she had enjoyed Monday's reception – I told her that all the players were still talking about it.

"To be here twice in a week is just a fantastic honour. It's something I am never going to forget."

At 24, Wilkinson becomes the youngest Union player to receive an honour of this type, taking the accolade from Welsh legend Gareth Edwards who was 27 at the time of his investiture.

By Andy Jackson

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