Sometimes a consolation prize and sometimes a vital step on the road to bigger and better things, the Triple Crown is always sweetly received by its winners as it confirms dominance over their closest rivals.
Wales clearly hope the latter applies as consecutive wins over Ireland, Scotland and England in the first three rounds of Six Nations 2021 have put them on course for the title and a second Grand Slam in three years.
What are the origins of the Triple Crown?
The idea of a ‘Triple Crown’ was first referenced in an article in The Irish Times in 1894 after Ireland had completed a clean sweep of wins against the other home nations in a single season for the first time. The tradition has continued to this day that if one of those teams beats the other three in the Championship in any given year, they win the Triple Crown.
Is there a trophy?
There is now. But once, the Triple Crown was known as ‘The Invisible Cup’ because it did not exist in physical form until an ornate silver shield, measuring 42cm across and 5cm deep and weighing a hefty three kilos was commissioned to give to the winners in 2006. The trophy was produced in Edinburgh and took over four months to make.
Another trophy, carved from a piece of coal by a retired English miner, was created in the mid-1970s but never saw the light of day.
Who’s won the Triple Crown?
All four home nations have won the Triple Crown but England have enjoyed the most success with 26, the most recent coming in 2020. Behind them comes Wales with 22 while Ireland have 11 and Scotland have 10.
Scotland have yet to win the Triple Crown in the Six Nations era, but Wales and Ireland have been particularly prolific in modern times. Ireland were the first holders of the actual trophy in 2006 and have gone on to win it on three more occasions since, while this year’s Triple Crown was also Wales’ fourth in that timespan.
Perhaps the best-remembered Triple Crown for Wales fans was the one won in 1988. After a decade of dominance in the 1970s, Wales’ fortunes had declined badly due to an exodus of players to Rugby League, but before the likes of Jonathan Davies and Adrian Hadley also moved north, there was still time for one season of glory. The 1988 Triple Crown was in splendid isolation as it was Wales’ first since 1979 and their last until 2005.
Longest time without a Triple Crown
Ireland went 49 years without a Triple Crown, from 1899 to 1948. After 11-0 and 6-0 wins over England and Scotland, Ireland ended the drought in Belfast by beating Wales 6-3 in Belfast. Scotland are currently on a barren run of 31 years dating back to their Grand Slam-winning year of 1990.
Most consecutive Triple Crowns
England and Wales share this record with four. England’s run started in 1995 and ended in 1998, while the great Welsh team of Gareth Edwards et al claimed it from 1976 through to 1979.
Triple Crown winners year-by-year
Triple Crowns are counted from the date of the very first Home Nations Championship in 1883.
England (26 times): 1883, 1884, 1892, 1913, 1914, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1934, 1937, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2014, 2016, 2020
Wales (22 times): 1893, 1900, 1902, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1950, 1952, 1965, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1988, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2019, 2021
Ireland (11 times): 1894, 1899, 1948, 1949, 1982, 1985, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2018
Scotland (10 times): 1891, 1895, 1901, 1903, 1907, 1925, 1933, 1938, 1984, 1990.