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Analysis: Wales showed us how to perfectly stop the maul at Twickenham

The maul has been a lethal weapon in the World Cup, but Wales countered it perfectly.

THE SIGHT OF  pack of forwards rolling ominously towards the tryline has been a common sight in this World Cup.

It’s prompted many to call for the rules around it to be changed; that it’s too heavily weighted in favour of the attacking team.

But on Saturday night, in two crucial lineouts, Wales showed exactly how to defend the maul, the second of which effectively won them the game.

There were a lot of components to their maul defence; staying down in the lineout, isolating the jumper, communication, distribution of weight, all of which combined made a difficult skill look easy.

The first instance we’ll look at is early in the game.

England have a five metre lineout, and every man, woman and child in Twickenham knew it was going to be taken in by the pack.

Firstly Wales didn’t attempt to disrupt the lineout, waiting on the ground as Geoff Parling went up, as we can see below.

1 initial

Communication was the next key component. In the game footage, we can hear what sounds like Alun-Wyn Jones dictating the timing of the counter, telling his players to hold, and hold until the second Parling hits the ground.

However, they resist the urge to just pile numbers into the lineout, instead picking a point to attack Parling at an angle, so that when the maul is initially formed England are not travelling straight towards the tryline.

The timing of the drive is perfect. Had they engaged the maul and then attacked the blindside, they would have been offside, but by forcing Parling to turn just as the maul is forming, it meant England weren’t travelling towards the tryline.

1 first hit

It means that when we zoom back out the maul is moving diagonally, marked by the blue arrow, rather than forward.

By distributing the majority of their weight to one side of the maul, it means that England to have to react and balance the weight out.

They don’t do that, and it causes the scrum to rotate, exactly what Wales wanted.

1 drive

It’s also important to show how Wales isolated England’s jumper from his lifters. Below, you can see how Alun-Wyn Jones has wedged himself in between Parking and Joe Marler, who had been a lifter at the front.

Keith Earls Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

By causing the maul to turn it meant that England had to use the ball faster. Talupe Falutau has his head screwed on and leaves the back of the maul, ready to tackle Tom Youngs.

1 gif

It was a similar style of defence for the fateful late lineout in the corner, but this time Wales pushed England towards the touchline.

Once more, it involved Wales allowing England to cleanly take the lineout.

2 initial

And again, a member of the Welsh team is organising the call, and when Chris Robshaw lands on the ground a combination of good Welsh timing and poor English play results in the maul going into touch.

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Robshaw’s lifter Kieran Brookes (marked with an X) doesn’t get tight on his captain, leaving him exposed, and it’s from this Luke Charteris is able to get inside and get a firm hold of Robshaw.

On top of that, the decision by England to jump at two was heavily criticised, and rightly so. In such a pressure situation, Wales were never likely to contest the lineout, so by jumping at 4 or 5 instead, it leaves a much greater space between the maul and the touchline.

It would also leave ensured that the Welsh pack were split evenly either side of Robshaw. In the end, the majority of the Welsh pack was able to target Kieran Brookes and drive towards the touchline.

2 down

Targeting the angle of the maul may seem like a simple idea, but the timings of the drives must be perfect, and because of that Wales’ forwards coach Robin McBryde can take a huge amount of satisfaction from what he saw.

In contrast to Wales, this try scored by South Africa below shows what happens when the maul is given the time to form and go forward.

We can see how Japan allow the Springbok lifters remain tight to Victor Matfield, and how the Japanese players can’t find a gap to get through.

By going to the middle of the lineout, Japan also don’t have the luxury of being able to target one side, and as a result, South Africa can form their maul and direct is straight to the tryline.

South Africa try

In the end Francois Louw just has to touch down over the line for the score.

While many say perfecting the maul is an art form, defending it is even more so, and Wales gave us a masterpiece on Saturday night.

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About the author:

Neil Treacy

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