Five of the greatest Grand Slam wins

Ben Youngs celebrates winning the Grand Slam at the final whistle 19/3/2016
In 22 editions of the Guinness Six Nations, 11 have ended without a Grand Slam – a reminder of how special an achievement it is to win five matches in a row in Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

In 22 editions of the Guinness Six Nations, 11 have ended without a Grand Slam – a reminder of how special an achievement it is to win five matches in a row in Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

From France in 2002 to Wales in 2019, some of the all-time great Championship teams have emerged in the past two decades and, this year, France’s crop of 2022 has the chance to join them.

They host England on Super Saturday chasing their first Grand Slam in 12 years and with that in mind, here are some of the classic deciders in Championship history.

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WALES 32-20 IRELAND, 2005

Where else to start, but the most famous Grand Slam of all?

Wales’ magical 2005 journey started in Round 1 when they beat England in Cardiff for the first time since 1993 and from there, the momentum steadily built.

They faced three consecutive away matches but there was no case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show as they saw off Italy (38-8), France (24-18) and Scotland (44-26).

Mike Ruddock’s men therefore went into the final match against Ireland in Cardiff on the cusp of a first Grand Slam since 1978 and, fittingly, star player Gavin Henson was again influential.

The centre settled any early nerves with a drop goal and later added a penalty which, in addition to tries from Gethin Jenkins and Kevin Morgan and the reliable boot of Stephen Jones, saw Wales claim a 32-20 victory that secured the Grand Slam.

Wales did not have to wait so long for the next one, which arrived in 2008 and was replicated in 2012 and 2019. But while all such achievements are special, the 2005 triumph remains particularly fondly recalled – particularly by Martyn Williams, that year’s Player of the Championship.

“It’s a bit of a cliché but when we played Ireland in that final game, it really felt like we couldn’t lose, and that is still the best day of my career,” Williams recalled.

FRANCE 21-31 ENGLAND, 2016

England set out their stall to become the most dominant team in Europe when they hired Eddie Jones and in their first campaign under the Australian, they completed the Grand Slam at the Stade de France.

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Aiming to become the first English team to secure a Slam in Paris since 1923, Jones’ charges arrived knowing they were already champions.

On the face of it a ten-point victory, in which they outscored their opponents three tries to none, might look a comfortable one, but it wasn’t until Owen Farrell slotted a 77th-minute penalty, that the result was put beyond doubt.

First-half scores from Danny Care and Dan Cole allowed England to lead 17-12 at the break, but the unerring boot of Maxime Machenaud – who finished with a French record of 21 points in a Crunch – kept France in it.

The second half followed a similar pattern, but just as it appeared France might be able to come back, England were able to raise their game, notably with a couple of crucial lineout steals.

England backed up their success with another title the following year, before adding a third under Jones in 2020. But, so far, they have been unable to match the heights of 2016.

WALES 15-17 IRELAND, 2009

Ireland may have enjoyed their fair share of Guinness Six Nations glory since 2009, but their Grand Slam victory 13 years ago will be forever etched in history – as much for the drama that ensued, as for lifting the trophy for the first time in 24 years.

Without a Championship title since 1985 – and a Grand Slam victory since 1948 – Declan Kidney’s men headed to Cardiff in the final match knowing that a win would see them over the line.

Although Wales went into the clash having tasted defeat in France in Round 3, the defending Grand Slam champions knew that if they could besmirch Ireland’s so-far perfect record and win by 13 points, they would clinch successive Six Nations crowns.

In the ultimate case of winner takes all, there were twists and turns throughout the 80 minutes. Wales took a slender advantage into the break and had a great chance to deny their visitors victory with a last-gasp penalty.

But in the end Ronan O’Gara’s late drop goal proved to be the difference between the teams, signalling the end to 61 years of Grand Slam pain and securing Ireland’s first Six Nations title since Italy’s introduction in 2000.

FRANCE 24-21 ENGLAND, 2004

France against England in Paris is a fixture to get the pulse racing no matter what the circumstances and the 2004 clash had plenty riding on it.

England, reigning world champions and winners of a Grand Slam the previous year, needed to win by eight points to seal a second Championship on the bounce. Hosts France, meanwhile, were looking for a victory to secure their second Grand Slam in the space of three years.

In Imanol Harinordoquy, the home side had a back-rower with a try-scoring instinct that was particularly prominent in the 2004 Championship.

And he made his mark in this game with a crucial first-half try as he latched on to a Dimitri Yachvili crosskick and touched down for his fourth try of the Championship.

France were firmly in the ascendancy for the remainder of the half and a stunning solo try by Yachvili, who gathered his own kick and dived over in the closing stages of a first half, put the hosts 21-3 ahead.

England needed a miracle and their hopes were raised when Ben Cohen and Josh Lewsey crossed, but it came too late to seriously threaten France’s grip on the Championship.


They say courage is grace under pressure, and despite arriving in Dublin for their final, do-or-die bout of Six Nations action in 2003 with the weight of the world on their shoulders, Clive Woodward’s England charges demonstrated true hearts of steel.

The Red Rose had claimed two of the previous three Championship titles, but were desperate to finally get the Grand Slam monkey off their backs, having fallen at the final hurdle against Wales at Wembley in 1999, Scotland at Murrayfield in 2000 and Ireland on their last visit to Lansdowne Road in 2001.

To add to the burden of England’s task, they were pitted against an Ireland side also bidding for Grand Slam glory, with the men in green without a Championship title for 18 years, and without a clean sweep since 1948.

With everything to play for, the two sides played out a typically tense opening 40 minutes, before England emerged unstoppable from the interval, with Mike Tindall’s try spearheading a second-half onslaught.

A 42-6 win truly exorcised the demons of recent seasons, sealing England’s first Grand Slam since 1995 and sending a warning to the rest of the world that they were going to be tough to stop in Australia.