If you have a dominant forward pack, the maul can be a very powerful weapon that can psychologically and physically wear the opposition down.
A good maul commits opponents to defend it, thus, leaving space around the edges. This is the space that quality scrum-halves are looking for.
He works in conjunction with his blindside winger to find little two-on-ones or mis-matches where quick backs come face-to-face with slow forwards. Deciding on the precise moment to attack is hugely important.
The timing is the difference between running into a couple of back rowers and probably getting turned over, or, making a sharp break with guaranteed quick ball.
It is vital to have a good platform to attack from. If the maul is going backwards or is taken to the ground, the defenders don’t need to commit to defending it.
So a pre-curser to attacking plays from mauls is lots of good quality work on the driving lineout. I cannot emphasise how important this is.
I have always said that rugby needs to be as simple as possible, so if you can win the lineout and get on the front foot without throwing a single pass you would be stupid not to make the most of this.
Having the ability to drive, opens up space for off-the-top lineout ball as well, because the opposition are worried about defending the driving maul.
As soon as the ball is won at the lineout, it must be worked to the back of the maul so the opposition cannot get their hands on it.
Once it is here, the ball must be available for the scrum-half so that he can decide on the precise moment to take it and attack.
As soon as the lineout has been won, all the defensive backs must be 10 metres away and this leaves holes between D7 and D10.
You may remember the now England coach Mike Catt running through this channel a lot when he played the game.
The trick to attacking this hole is to do a quick dummy drive. This means that the drive doesn’t move forward so the defensive backs have to stay back - keeping the natural weakness there. This is a good trick to use if you don’t have the best driving maul.
Notice, in this picture, that the blindside winger is directly behind the maul and this gives him the option to attack either side of the maul.
If you have a good drive, you can look to get on the front foot using this weapon.
It is a great way to pick up penalties and really impose yourselves on the opposition. With the winger tucked in behind the maul, the defence have to mark both sides and, if the maul is going forward as well, the defence have to commit numbers to stop it.
The key decision maker in this instance is A9. If the maul is going forward, he should keep the ball in, looking for penalties or for the moment that the defence over commit. At this point, he decides which way to attack.
Once A9 has made the call to attack the open side, he must tap the player at the back of the maul, who gives him a short pass. This helps A9 to get across the pitch and stresses the defence.
In the diagram below, notice that D6 has had to commit to the maul to try and stop it. It is at this point that A9 will make a move.
From this point, you have isolated D7 and created a four-on-three. Your team can come up with your own play from this point but A9 must go forward and attack the first defender.
You can use A11 on A9’s inside or outside shoulder (he is on the inside on the diagram below), you can use both centres on hard lines or the fly-half.
Or A9 can attack D7’s outside shoulder and switch A12 back into the space left.
All of these plays rely on a strong driving maul. If this is not one of the strengths of your team, then don’t try these until your forwards are consistently driving well.
If you found this – and the other four coaching blogs I have produced with Living Rugby – useful, you may be interested in the EBook I am releasing shortly.
In it, I talk about which style of defence to use to suit your team and give you some great wide plays to get people talking. I also learn how to run a successful lineout and examine the patterns of play that the professionals use.
There are a lot more coaching tips from Sam on his blog page.