How to stop a driving maul

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and Ireland is presently beholden to the driven maul.

It has yielded three tries from the lineout in two RBS 6 Nations games for the as yet unbeaten Emerald Isle.

Former Irish lock legend Malcolm O’Kelly describes it as “exquisite”, while England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster called the Irish execution “excellent”. But how does a maul work and how do teams look to stop one?

We enlisted the help of physics graduate, scholar of the second row and England’s dynamic super sub Dave Attwood to help explain the science behind the driving maul.

In essence it is a relation to the choke tackle, which Ireland have perfected over recent years in holding a tackled player up off the ground, turning the contact into a maul and earning a turnover.

At the lineout, the number one goal is to win the ball and with Rory Best hitting his targets like a darts champion eyeing double top and totem pole Devin Toner standing at a whopping 6’11”, that has proven something of a given.

Then Ireland put their strong men in support of the jumper to gain the initial momentum at the same time as bringing in more explosive carriers to maintain the surge.

But do not forget the ball. You need to keep it well away from the opposition, so smuggle it to the back of the marauders, but only once a tackle is attempted, otherwise the referee can ping you for obstruction.

Like the cogs of a machine, everything needs to work in well-oiled harmony; body height and position, react to the opposition, switch the point of attack, keep them guessing.

Once the driving maul is on, it is very difficult to stop.

Attwood concurs, but knows it is his and England’s job to do just that should Ireland turn to a productive source of points.

“They have developed a real threat there,” the Bath enforcer told O2. “The maul would be a large part of the weekly routine, no matter who we are playing against, and it is also an asset for us.

“But we’re aware we will have to manage it effectively if we are going to nullify the threat as it is very difficult to stop.

“Some of the training is done in the classroom, but a large element is your intent on the field. You can’t rehearse that. You need to be on the field to get that going.

“The best way to stop it is to win the ball or deny possession. Even if they do win it, you need to compete hard in the air, disrupt lifters and jumpers and stop them from setting the platform.

“There are certain body positions you have to get into and timings you need to be aware of.

“The guys that lift the jumper will form the platform that the maul is driven from and if they don’t get their role right then the opposition are able to tackle the jumper and no maul is set up.

“But if they get it right it is very difficult for the opposition to tackle the jumper. The thing about a maul is that it is a tackle in itself and once it is moving you can no longer effect a tackle on it. That is illegal, which is why it is such an effective ploy.

“I wouldn’t want to give away too many trade secrets, but the priority is to stop Ireland getting clean ball and to destabilise things.

“Whoever executes their driving mauls best on the day will go some way to deciding the outcome of the match – it is something we pride ourselves on so we will be looking to use it as an attacking weapon and a way to exert pressure on them.”