The maul

A maul typically evolves from a contact situation where the ball carrier is held by an opponent but is not brought to ground. It can develop into an effective method of retaining or contesting possession. A maul can be a dynamic attacking platform which commits defenders and therefore creates space to play. On formation of the maul, offside lines are created.

Law definition
A maul begins when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball carrier’s team mates bind on the ball carrier. A maul therefore consists, when it begins, of at least three players, all on their feet; the ball carrier and one player from each team. All players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul and must be on their feet and moving towards a goal line. Open play has ended.

Key points for players

  • Maintain forward momentum and make the ball available to your team mates

  • First arriving support player attempt to secure possession by ripping the ball free or driving beyond the ball

  • Subsequent support (second and third arriving players) bind onto the ball carrier and maintain forward momentum
  • Heads and shoulders should be no lower than hips and all players must be bound
  • Drive forward in a balanced formation

  • When additional support arrives, move the ball further back from opposition

  • Once the ball is at the back, the ball carrier can either continue driving, leave the maul or pass to a team mate

All support players must conform to basic safety key factors:

  • Adopt a strong and stable body position
  • Keep the spine in line with the direction of drive
  • Drive from low to high
  • Bind onto team-mate making contact using the shoulder and arm
  • Remain on your feet at all times while driving forward

Player safety research for the maul tells us that players should:

  • have the ‘eyes up’ to keep head and neck in a good position
  • keep head and shoulders above hips at all times
  • make contact by binding on a player using the whole arm

Coaching tips

  • Use conditioned games to develop support players’ decision-making skills
  • Practise and re-practise all contact skills
  • Use opposition progressively: e.g., touch, maul touch, defenders with bags, full contact
  • Ensure all players maintain a strong body shape throughout the contact and emphasise joining the maul legally by binding onto a team-mate
  • Ensure all players are aware of the Laws governing the maul, especially those relating to safety; players in defence must be encouraged to remain on their feet at all times and not illegally ‘pull down’ a maul

Referee tips

Check that:

  • The ball carrier remains fully bound
  • Players joining the maul do so from behind the feet of the hindmost player and by binding onto a teammate
  • Players who are not participating in the maul remain behind their offside line

Watch for:

  • Players who drag opponents out of a maul
  • Players who try to collapse the maul
  • Players charging into the maul
  • Players lifting opponents in the maul