In pursuit of the Grand Slam
October 29, 2009
Mark Ella, David Campese and Andrew Slack celebrate Australia's 1984 Grand Slam at Murrayfield © Getty Images
After they've completed their Japanese adventure with a Test against the All Blacks on Saturday, Robbie Deans' Australia will arrive in the northern hemisphere in pursuit of a rare achievement: a Grand Slam tour.
Only one Wallabies side has completed a Test tour with victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales under their belts, and the other southern hemisphere giants have also found the task challenging. We take a look back at those great sides who were able to complete the clean sweep in our latest Scrum Seven.
Australia - 1984
The 2009 Wallabies have some way to go before they can lay claim to the feats completed by the class of '84. Winning is one thing, doing it in style is another. This was a Wallabies side brimming with attacking vigour.
Cutting their teeth on tour were future World Cup winners Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh, who played the tour in the No.12 jersey due to the presence of the mercurial Mark Ella at fly-half. On this tour, his last four caps, Ella was worth the price of admission alone and scored a try in each of their Test victories.
England lost 19-3 at Twickenham before Ireland were sunk 16-9 at Lansdowne Road. Australia conceded only one try on tour, to Wales' prodigiously talented scrum-half David Bishop. Bishop won his sole international cap in the 28-9 loss at the National Stadium. They rounded off their tour with a 37-12 win at Murrayfield, where Ella's final game was won with two tries to David Campese. Away from the Test arena the Wallabies fared less well, losing to Cardiff, Ulster, Llanelli and South of Scotland in midweek games.
New Zealand - 2005
The 2005 All Blacks set down in Europe on the crest of the sizable wave created by their 3-0 dismantling of Clive Woodward's bloated British & Irish Lions and the reclamation of the Tri-Nations from South Africa.
Their first opponents were reigning Six Nations champions Wales, who were swatted aside 41-3 by Dan Carter and Rico Gear in front of an expectant capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium. Carter was majestic in scoring two tries as Gear bagged a hat-trick against their injury-ravaged hosts.
Ireland proved to be equally incapable of stopping the marauding All Blacks at Lansdowne Road, Eddie O'Sullivan's men dispatched 45-7 thanks to braces from Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko. England, following a miserable Six Nations, provided stern resistance at Twickenham but despite the tourists having three players sin-binned could not find the killer blow and lost 23-19.
The deed was sealed at Murrayfield, where Scotland failed to stop the tide of history as the All Blacks capped a perfect year with a 29-10 win.
South Africa - 1912-13
The second Springboks to tour Europe, Billy Millar's men were the first to complete a Grand Slam. In a gruelling tour that spanned 27 matches from October 1912 to January 1913, the Springboks arrived with a rock-solid defence in tow. Their first Grand Slam attempt had failed in 1906, when wins over Wales and Ireland were backed up by a loss to Scotland and a draw with England at Crystal Palace.
In November 1912, the Scots were seen off 16-0 in Inverleith. Worse was to come for Ireland, who were thrashed 38-0 in front of 20,000 fans at Lansdowne Road. Their progress was slowed in Cardiff, where an inexperienced Wales side showing nine debutants were defeated 3-0 by a lone penalty from forward Dougie Morkel.
Christmas came and went before the Boks toasted the New Year with a 9-3 win over England. Remarkably, the tour was finished in Bordeaux a week later, where the tourists ran riot against France to win 38-5 and seal a full clean-sweep of the Five Nations.
New Zealand - 1978
Thoughts of New Zealand's 1978 tour usually end up in one place. Thomond Park, October 31. Christy Cantillon scored the try as Munster famously beat Graham Mourie's tourists 12-0 in one of the great upsets.
In the rarefied atmosphere of the Test matches, Mourie's men dug deep. The All Blacks' first Grand Slam, at the eighth attempt, was a close-run thing. Ireland fell 10-6 thanks to an injury-time try by hooker Andy Dalton, Wales, getting used to life without Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and Gerald Davies, lost 13-12 thanks to a last-gasp penalty from replacement fullback Brian McKechnie.
England came up short at Twickenham, 16-6, before Murrayfield hosted another thriller. Ian McGeechan's drop-goal was charged down and centre Bruce Robertson pounced for a long-range score to seal an 18-9 win that had been finely balanced at 12-9. Interestingly, in the All Blacks' second-row was Frank Oliver, whose son, Anton, would take part in the 2005 Grand Slam tour.
South Africa - 1931-32
Bennie Osler's Springboks were successful, if metronomic. A giant pack and a kicking fly-half, Osler, wound a merciless route through the northern hemisphere, suffocating all of their opponents along the way.
"No one could fail to admire his poise and technique - the tactics were another question," scowled a British critic, O.L Owen. Osler and his men were unapologetic. Wales were the first to go, 8-3 at St.Helen's, and the Boks left Wales unbeaten for the first time. Ireland lost by the same 8-3 scoreline in Dublin before England's resistance was crushed with a 7-0 clean sheet in front of 70,000 at Twickenham.
New Zealand - 2008
The All Blacks of 2008 were driven by a desire to prove their doubters wrong. Having been shunted out of the 2007 Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stage, New Zealand controversially stuck with the coaching team of Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith.
A Tri-Nations title, in some style, followed before the squad embarked on their second Grand Slam attempt in four years. The young guns got a run against Scotland, winning 32-6 as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw warmed the bench. Ireland expected - Croke Park welcomed the All Blacks and their 100% record - and were disappointed by a clinical 22-3 dismantling.
On to the Millennium Stadium, and one of the great showdowns in recent history. Wales skipper Ryan Jones and his Grand Slam winners stared down the haka and refused to budge in a heart-pounding moment of theatre. They were overwhelmed eventually, with Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino sealing a 29-9 win after a first-half scare. Twickenham saw less drama as Danny Cipriani's troubles continued - the All Blacks coasting to a 32-6 win as England had four players sin-binned.
South Africa - 1951-52
Craven stepped in to the coaching hotseat in 1949 following a distinguished playing career and moulded a Springbok side full of ambition. His men arrived in Europe having comprehensively defeated the All Blacks 4-0 in a home Test series and showed no signs of slowing down.
Scotland were obliterated 44-0 at Murrayfield before two tries from Basie van Wyk defeated Ireland 17-5 at Lansdowne Road. Cliff Morgan, in his first year as an international fly-half, turned out for Wales as they lost 6-3 in a game that the home side could well have won with a little more composure.
At Twickenham there was another close game, but Craven's irrepressible Boks overcame England 8-3 before hopping across the channel to round off an amazing effort by defeating France 25-3 at the Stade Yves du Manoir.
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor