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Grand Slam (rugby union)

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In rugby union, a Grand Slam (Irish: Caithréim Mhór. Welsh: Y Gamp Lawn. French: Le 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 37 times in total, for the first time by Wales in 1908, and most recently by England in 2016. The team to have won the most Grand Slams is England with 13.

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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 Championship

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 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.

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 38 of these occasions – 13 by England, 11 by Wales, 9 by France, 3 by Scotland and 2 by Ireland. (Italy, involved in the tournament since 2000, have yet to win a Grand Slam.)

Consecutive Grand Slams have been won by Wales in 1908–1909, by England in 1913–1914, 1923–1924 and 1991–1992, and by France in 1997–1998. No team has yet achieved three consecutive Grand Slams.

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 in 2009 with Ireland winning matches away to Italy, Scotland and Wales, and in 2016 by England, who won in Scotland, Italy and France.

Since the addition of Italy in 2000, the Grand Slam (now requiring five victories) has been achieved nine times. No team has yet been denied a Grand Slam solely by failing to beat Italy, in other words completing what would have been a Grand Slam in the former Five Nations but not in the current championship.

The 2017 Six Nations Championship will use bonus points on a trial basis. A team that wins the Grand Slam will get three bonus points. This will eliminate the possibility of a Grand Slam winner losing the championship on bonus points.

Table of Grand Slam winners

* In 1908 and 1909 matches with France were played, although they were not part of the Championship.

Grand Slam tours

A Grand Slam tour is one in which a touring national team from New Zealand, South Africa or Australia plays Test matches against all four home nations (England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland). If the tourists win all four of these games, they are said to have achieved a Grand Slam.

Grand Slams by touring teams have been achieved nine times: four times each by South Africa and New Zealand, and once by Australia. The only touring country to have achieved a "Five Nations" Grand Slam (defeating France in addition to the four home countries on the same tour) is South Africa, in its tours of 1912–13 and 1951–52.

Australia is the only country to suffer an unofficial "grand slam of defeats" against the four home nations, on their 1957–58 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 become quite common again, as the number of Tests on each tour has again increased, although fewer matches are now played against club or provincial teams than was formerly the case on Grand Slam tours. For example, New Zealand played only Test matches in 2005 and 2010 and played only one non-Test in 2008 (a midweek match against Munster to commemorate Munster's defeat of the All Blacks in 1978, which had been their only loss on that tour). 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.

List of Grand Slam tours

This is a list of all Grand Slam tours (tours which included fixtures with all four home nations, regardless of the eventual results of those matches). Tours on which the Grand Slam was achieved (wins over all four home nations) are indicated with a green tick.

References

Grand Slam (rugby union) Wikipedia


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