Coaching non-lineout mauls

Most controlled mauls are formed at lineouts. Open-field mauls carry more risks for the attacking team, but it’s still worth considering it as a tactic. Here’s how…

Lineouts lend themselves to a catch-and-drive maul. The close proximity of your forwards, who are also on their feet, allows the catcher to be protected quickly, preventing the opposition from grabbing the ball.

The ball can then be transferred back through several layers of attackers until the player at the back of the maul has control of the ball. The more layers between the ball and the defenders, the easier it is to transfer the ball away if the referee requests it.

In open play, mauls are much riskier. Unplanned mauls, where the defence makes a concerted effort to wrap up the ball carrier and keep them on their feet are a common tactic. Failure to produce the ball from the maul leads to a scrum to the defending side.

However, you can set up an effectively planned maul from a ruck situation. Well-set mauls from rucks are potent weapons:

  • The defence is often not set to prevent the maul.
  • A maul is dynamic, so goes forward quickly, which keeps the defensive line going backwards.
  • Often the maul is set up further infield than a normal lineout maul, which splits the defence. If they add more players to stop the maul, there will be more gaps wide out to exploit once the maul ball comes out.

The session, Maul ball for all helps you create situations for players to be comfortable with setting up a maul from a ruck. It begins with just three players forming the maul. The idea is to provide a shield on either side of the ball carrier.

Here’s the ideal sequence of events:

  1. Ball carrier: Pick up the ball in a strong, well-balanced position and take contact with one teammate bound on.
  2. First support player: Bind onto the ball carrier at hip level, either alongside the ball or with your shoulder on the ball carrier’s hip.
  3. Second support player: Watch what the first support player does, then do the same on the opposite side.
  4. Drive the maul forward and release the ball when your 9 says so or when the maul stops.

The choice by 9 is whether to encourage more players to enter the maul if they think they are in a strong position to drive forward. That means the next arriving player drives into and rips out the ball from the ball carrier (who has their back to the opposition).

Whatever the play, the initial decision must be communicated between the players before the contact. The ball carrier must take charge, and check they have the right support around them. The other players then confirm the call.

The call I’ve used with my teams in the past is “Concrete”. The name gives the sense of no way through for defenders once contact is made.

The scrum-half has to step back and let the play unfold before shouting for the ball. They can drag in other players if they feel the maul is gathering momentum, but also listen to the referee when to release the ball.

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