6 Nations Week 2 - Perfecting The Maul
This year’s 6 Nations has had a lot of new ideas being pushed forwards and for many TV pundits, it’s confusing! I am sure many of you have watched the annoying (yet legal) way teams are stopping/ slowing down the way possession is managed in the maul.
The dynamic go forward that many mauls attain is virtually unstoppable legally, so how are team’s managing to do this?
Defending The Maul
Law 16 covers just about all of the laws pertaining to the maul. The law clearly states that the defending player is completely legal if they are bound onto a player in the maul, and have been there from the start.
What the law did not go into detail in is where the defending player is positioning themselves. The photograph below illustrates the way the defender is bound tightly onto a blue shirted player and then once bound on manoeuvres themselves around by swinging their legs to a position where they block the ball exiting the maul. Obviously they cannot remove themselves from the bound on position or they would then be in an offside position – so they just block the easy access to the ball and slow the game down. This isn’t cheating, it's just using the laws to achieve another aim than they were designed for. Expect a change soon that defenders at maul cannot be ahead of the ball unless attached to the ball carrier.
How Can We Maul More Effectively?
Working as a coherent unit with a shared purpose lends itself to good psychology principles often we see the team that has a strong scrum usually has an effective driving maul.
So the key attributes for an effective maul are many; the ability to stay on your feet when in contact is key, especially when the defender is trying to complete the tackle.
Working as a unit is probably the hardest aspect to get right, each player in the maul will have their role and their duty to get right, if one fails the whole maul fails.
How we coach this aspect is key, just practicing whole maul is not enough, we need to be technical and work on the parts of the maul that may be broken.
Set up your training area in such a way that allows you to practice the whole aspect of the maul, from lineouts for example and the have technical areas designated, depending on numbers, age grade and ability of the group.
Some technical aspects include:
- Ball carry in 2 hands
- Footwork before contact to buy time
- Fending if need then ball in 2 hands
- Strong low center of grvity step and stance
- Fighting to stay on the feet
- Back in line with the direction of play
- Head up and looking forwards
- Ball kept away from the tackler
- Working with the support player who you transfer the ball to
- Binding and staying bound under pressure
- Building the maul with the right number of players
- Blocking roles
- Strong leg drive
- All players maintaining a low body shape to stay together
- Controlling direction whilst protecting the ball
- Knowing when to let the ball leave the maul
And don’t forget these can be broken down as well – the level of detail you go to is based upon your knowledge as a coach, as well as the player’s age and ability!