Grand Slam (rugby union)
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In rugby union, a Grand Slam (Irish: Caithréim Mhór. Welsh: Y Gamp Lawn. French: Grand Chelem) occurs when one team in the Six Nations Championship (or its Five Nations predecessor) manages to beat all the others during one year's competition. This has been achieved 39 times in total, for the first time by Wales in 1908, and most recently by Wales in 2019. The team to have won the most Grand Slams is England with 13.
In another context, a Grand Slam tour refers to a touring side – South Africa, Australia or New Zealand – which plays fixtures against all four home nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) during their tour. If the tourists then win all of those matches, they are said to have achieved a Grand Slam. This has been done nine times, first by South Africa in 1912–13, and most recently by New Zealand in 2010.
Five and Six Nations Grand Slams
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In the annual Six Nations Championship (among England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy), and its predecessor the Five Nations Championship (before Italy joined in 2000), a Grand Slam occurs when one team beats all of the others during one year's competition. The Grand Slam winners are awarded the Six Nations trophy (as tournament winners), but there is no special grand slam trophy – the Grand Slam is an informal honour recognizing a Championship-winning team which has won all their games.
Although the term grand slam had long been in use in the game of contract bridge, the first time that the expression is known to have been applied to rugby union was in 1957, in a preview of a match between England and Scotland:
There is much more than usual at stake for England to-day in the match against Scotland at Twickenham... The last time when England achieved the Grand Slam under present conditions was as long ago as the 1927–28 season, but it is difficult to try to build up a case against her repeating the performance to-day.— The Times, 16 March 1957
The Grand Slam honour is applied retroactively to teams which won all of their matches in Five Nations tournaments before the term came into use. It is also applied to the 1908 and 1909 seasons, when matches with France took place during, but outside of, the then Home Nations Championships. However the Grand Slam honour is not applied to seasons in which only the four home nations were involved (1883–1907 and 1932–1939) – in that case a team that won all its matches is said to have achieved the Triple Crown. This honour is still competed for between the four home nations within the Six Nations Championship, and any Grand Slam-winning home nation will necessarily also win the Triple Crown.
A Grand Slam was therefore available in the years 1908–1931 and 1947–1999 (Five Nations) and 2000–2016 (Six Nations), a total of 94 seasons to date. Grand Slams were in fact achieved on 39 of these occasions – 13 by England, 12 by Wales, 9 by France, 3 by Scotland and 3 by Ireland. (Italy, involved in the tournament since 2000, have yet to win a Grand Slam.)
Prior to 2000, each team played four matches, two at home and two away from home. Following the inclusion of Italy in 2000, each team plays five matches, two at home and three away in one year, and the opposite in the following season. When Wales won the Grand Slam in 2005, it was the first time that the feat had been achieved by a team that had played more matches away than at home. This was repeated by Ireland in 2009, by England in 2016, and by Wales in 2019.
Since 2017, the Six Nations Championship has used bonus points. A team that wins the Grand Slam will get three bonus points. This eliminates the possibility of a Grand Slam winner losing the championship on bonus points.
Table of Grand Slam winners
|Nation||Grand Slams||Grand Slam winning seasons|
|England||13||1913, 1914, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1957, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2003, 2016|
|Wales||12||1908*, 1909*, 1911, 1950, 1952, 1971, 1976, 1978, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2019|
|France||9||1968, 1977, 1981, 1987, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2010|
|Ireland||3||1948, 2009, 2018|
|Scotland||3||1925, 1984, 1990|
* In 1908 and 1909 matches with France were played, although they were not part of the Championship.
Chronological list of Grand Slam winners
|1882–1907||France did not take part in the championship|
|1908||Wales (*see note above)|
|1909||Wales (*see note above)|
|1915–19||No tournament due to World War I|
|1932–39||France was suspended from the championship|
|1940–46||No tournament due to World War II|
|2000||Tournament expanded to include Italy.|
Grand Slam tours
A Grand Slam tour is one in which a touring national team from Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa plays Test matches against all four home nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales). If the tourists win all four of these games, they are said to have achieved a Grand Slam.
Some Grand Slam tours also include a Test match against France; South Africa achieved a "Five Nations Grand Slam" in 1912–13 and 1951–52.
Grand Slams by touring teams have been achieved nine times: four times each by South Africa and New Zealand, and once by Australia.
Australia is the only country to have lost against all four home nations during a Grand Slam tour, on their 1957–58 tour. Australia also lost to France on that tour.
After 1984, Southern Hemisphere sides started to tour the British Isles more frequently, but to play fewer Tests on each tour, and thus there were no Grand Slam tours between 1984 and 1998. However, since 1998 Grand Slam tours have again become quite common, as the number of Tests on each tour has increased. The All Blacks' tours of 2005 and 2008 were originally planned to include only three Test matches; the late inclusion of matches against Wales and England respectively turned these into Grand Slam tours.
Grand Slams achieved by touring sides
|South Africa||1912–13, 1931–32, 1951–52, 1960–61|
|New Zealand||1978, 2005, 2008, 2010|
Grand Slam tours
|1939–40||Australia||Cancelled due to World War II|
- "History". sixnationsrugby.com.
- "Bonus points system to be trialled in Six Nations". BreakingNews.ie. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- Kitson, Robert (2002-04-08). "France masterclass in doing Le Slam". London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "Awesome England clinch Grand Slam". BBC Sport Online. 2003-03-30. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "France win Grand Slam by beating England". Melbourne: www.theage.com.au. 2004-03-28. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "Wales 32-20 Ireland". BBC Sport Online. 2005-03-19. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "Wales 29-12 France". BBC Sport Online. 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "Wales 15-17 Ireland". BBC Sport Online. 2009-03-21. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "France 12-10 England". BBC Sport. 2010-03-20. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
- "Wales 16-9 France". BBC Sport Online. 2012-03-17. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- "France 21-31 England". BBC Sport Online. 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2016-03-19.