The Maul is clearly a hot topic in world rugby at the moment, used frequently throughout the Six Nations, the Super XV and the NH leagues it raises eyebrows, receives praise and irritates people the world over in equal amounts.
In the first round of The Rugby Championship 3 of the 7 tries scored in the game were from the lineout drive. The All Blacks utilising the seldom used Shift Drive to get Richie McCaw on the score board to then turn around and have their backsides spanked by the Argentine driving maul, so I thought it’d be good to have quick look at Agustín Creevy’s two tries against the All blacks and how Argentina out thought the All Black Maul defence.
I often read a lot of comments about the maul being boring, negative rugby but taking the difficulty of stopping it out of the equation I can’t think of anything else in rugby, aside from a scrum, that sucks defenders in as much as a Maul.
I understand it’s a difficult thing to defend, but if you think about it the Ruck will inevitably result in one tackler and maybe one person committing. Most teams first priority in defence is to just set a defensive line and forgo competing for the ball and as such we frequently find the numerical balance is weighted in favour of the defending side.
Union is a game crying out for space and the Maul used effectively can result in more than just driving over the try line from 5 metres out. For example it can supply good quick go forward ball resulting in more space for the backs. As a back (mainly a fly half) I always enjoyed utilising that space and time the Maul created allowing the midfield to come onto a ball against a retreating backline that actually have to maintain their 3-4 metre standoff. As a back I also hated having to defend against a superior one, you want to concentrate on your opposite midfield but end up crabbing in turning in and waiting for the Maul to split and a rampaging back rower to come flying off at pace straight down your channel.
So regardless of what you think of the driving Maul, it’s clearly a powerful weapon when used correctly. Of course you can’t build your whole game plan around it but if you have a well drilled forward pack that can master it why should you pass up the opportunity to score or to gain a tactical advantage?
I guess my point is it’s all about positive mindset, it’s a weapon, and a good one for teams that spend the time perfecting it, it’s no less a skill than a backline move, and it’s no less effective. So, much like scrummaging if it’s approached in a positive mindset it will be used in that manner.
Of course it needs to be a fair contest, and ref’s need to police it much better, but I personally hope they don’t tamper with it too much and allow coaches to develop it into a positive attacking platform that facilitates the creation of space for some of the exciting backs currently in the game.
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Author: The Dead Ball Area
Graeme Forbes has run The Dead Ball Area since 2014.
You can find his material on Green and Gold Rugby, Rugbydump Coaching and Youtube. You can also find him randomly arguing with people on Twitter.