Monday, April 04, 2005

How to Stop the Rolling Maul

Due to the miraculous powers of Google, the Dave Gwydion website is now the first port of call for anyone interested in Rugby Union's "Rolling Maul." I won't bore readers with the reasons--they can read them here. I was thus pleased to read that someone else--someone who actually knows something about the laws of rugby union--had the same idea of how to stop the rolling maul. The laws suggest that the old Arsenal-style offside trap would work quite nicely against this abomination to the game of rugby union--although some of the contributors to the Newcastle Falcons website remain quite skeptical. Anyway over to Duncan Madsen of Newcastle's Evening Chronicle:

As the laws currently stand, the advantage lies almost totally with the attacking side who are allowed to obstruct at will, while the defenders are denied any legitimate ploy of counter-acting as they cannot legally pull down or collapse the maul, nor come round the side of it to get at the ball carrier.

This is the only legalised form of obstruction allowed by referees - and the quicker the lawmakers of the International Rugby Board outlaw it the better.

Until they do, we shall witness more of the same as the big packs like Bath, Leicester and Saracens throw gay abandon to the winds in a bid to strangle their opponents - unless and until someone has the wit to put a stop to all this nonsense by using the laws as they currently stand to the defender's advantage.

To understand where I am coming from, a little knowledge of the laws themselves is required.

Law 22 states: `A maul, which can take place only in the field of play, is formed by one or more players from each team on their feet and in physical contact closing round a player who is carrying the ball.'

Please note the words `each team' because if players are from one team only are involved, it is not a maul, so the offside law does not apply and the law of obstruction does.

Law 26 (1) (b) states: `It is illegal for any player: who is in an off-side position willfully to run or stand in front of another player of his team who is carrying the ball, thereby preventing an opponent from reaching the latter player.'

So if instead of engaging their opponents at a lineout, the defending side back off one or two metres, a whole new scenario opens up.

The attacking pack can either go forward to engage their opponents but then the ball carrier must expose himself to be tackled. However, if he isn't and tucks himself behind as he would in a so-called rolling maul, it is obstruction - the old flying wedge - and under Law 26, the offenders must be penalised.

Equally, the other option open to the defending side would be to come round the side of their opponents wedge and tackle the ball-carrier as there is no offside line as there would be in a maul.

This is not tosh and I have put it to a top Premiership referee who confirms my interpretation in its entirety.

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