23 OCTOBER 2007

Missing a plane wasn’t going to stop Prince Harry attending an important awards ceremony honouring sick children. Instead, the young royal ingeniously hitched a lift back with the returning England rugby squad as they made their way home from Paris, scene of this weekend’s World Cup final festivities.

Back in London, Harry spent an hour chatting and joking with the young guests at Lords cricket ground in his capacity as patron of the WellChild charity, the organisers of Monday's event celebrating the youngsters’ resilience.

The Prince’s smart appearance in a suit and tie was in sharp contrast to the more informal look worn by the sports-mad royal as he was snapped sneaking off the back steps of the team's plane while the rugby heroes, who were runners-up in the tournament, lined up for the cameras.

While brother Prince William left the hotel in good time to catch his 7pm flight back to Britain on Sunday, Harry stayed on to continue the merry-making that had started after Saturday's game - and found himself stranded for another night.

The 23-year-old was heard exclaiming: "I missed my flight!", which was when drop-kicker Jonny Wilkinson and his pals stepped in to help..

No doubt seeing the smiles on the youngsters’ faces made the last-minute dash worthwhile, with the Prince being praised by one award-winner. "He's much better in the flesh," said 18-year-old Natalie Robinson, from Sheffield.

Photo: ©
The Prince, seen here chatting with little Christopher Anderson and his nurse Caroline in his role as partron of the WellChild charity, had just stepped off a plane with the England rugby squadPhoto: © Rex
Photo: ©
Harry managed to catch a ride with the team after he failed to make it to the airport in time for his own flightPhoto: © Getty Images