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Jonny's made it a palace hat-trick.

England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson's unforgettable 12 months is ending on yet another high as he makes his second successive appearance in the New Year Honours list.

The Newcastle Falcons superstar is heading for a third date with the Queen - whom he has met twice in the past month - after he was awarded an OBE just a year after getting an MBE.

The latest honour is in recognition of his part in England's dramatic World Cup victory in Australia, which has also resulted in coach Clive Woodward being given a knighthood and honours for all the other 30 members of the squad. For Jonny, 24, who is known to shun the limelight, it means the spotlight that has been trained on him since his last-gasp winning drop goal in Sydney in November will not go away.

He will be back at Buckingham Palace to receive his OBE after meeting the Queen there twice earlier this month, first as part of England's victory parade through London and then to be presented with his MBE, awarded in last year's New Year Honours for services to rugby union.

The accolades continue to come thick and fast for the modest fly-half who was presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award earlier this month and is to be made a Freeman of Newcastle.

Since his international debut in 1998 at the age of 18, Jonny has developed into England's tactical linchpin and is currently the country's most feted sportsman, overtaking David Beckham at least for the time being.

Yesterday his parents Phil and Philippa, who live in Corbridge, Northumberland, spoke of their pride at his latest honour. Mr Wilkinson said: "We are immensely proud of Jonny and also his brother Mark. They have both worked very hard at their profession.

"We are delighted for Clive Woodward on getting his knighthood. It is a great achievement for him, for Jonny and for the rest "They have all had a remarkable year. It was a great privilege to go to Buckingham Palace last time and I am sure we will be very, very proud to do so again."

Mrs Wilkinson, who heard the news of England's victory while shopping in her local supermarket, said: "This is fantastic news and we are so very proud of Jonny."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2003
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