THE MAUL IS enjoying a resurgence at the top levels of world rugby, to the point that it has become one of the key attacking weapons for many teams.
Among the international sides who are increasingly focused on the maul as a means of amassing tries are Ireland, who have scored directly from the set-piece in their last two Test matches against South Africa and Georgia.
Those efforts continued a theme from Ireland’s forward pack, who excelled at the maul during their Six Nations success last season. It would be little surprise to see the Irish pack rumble over from five metres out against the Wallabies in Dublin on Saturday.
Ireland’s maul creates a try against Georgia last weekend.
“It’s a good set-piece and it’s something you can plan out to a certain degree,” says Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip. “Like all good set-pieces, when you drill them and execute them, they’re sometimes very hard to stop.
“Being on the other side of it, defending well-executed moves off mauls is tough work to get in there and break it up. South Africa got in for one against us two weeks ago, so all teams pride themselves on that.
“As a pack, you want that chance, you want to kick the corners and say ‘let’s go’. It’s man-up time, I suppose is the best way to describe it.”
It’s interesting to note that Heaslip indicates how difficult it is to defend against the maul, particularly when the attacking players know their mualing roles in such depth and possess the power to turn angles, bracing, binding and blocking into a serious amount of forward momentum.
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby, a 65-times capped international during his own playing days as a back row, explains the maul in similar terms.
“It’s becoming a really vital part of the game again and we, like everyone else, work really hard at that. We also have lots of improvements to make in that regard.”
It’s intriguing that Easterby underlines that attacking teams are being allowed to continue mauls for longer than was the case in the past. As with every other element of the game, refereeing plays a crucial role in mauling, and the impression is that attacking sides have been favoured in recent times.
That said, it was interesting to see Nigel Owens penalising France at an attacking maul last weekend against the Wallabies, as shown below.