One of the big trends of Super Rugby Pacific in 2022 and the wider game was the amount of rolling maul tries teams were scoring.
Hookers across the competition were outscoring wingers and bagging hat-tricks as the rolling maul became an unstoppable force that nearly every team relied on.
Last year ex-All Black Justin Marshall was highly critical of the one-dimensional approach but noticed in the opening round this season a sharp drop off in maul tries.
There were plenty of high-scoring games in round one of Super Rugby Pacific but Marshall was left scratching his head trying to remember any from the rolling maul.
Current All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan explained to Marshall on SEN Radio that he saw stricter officiating around access to the maul and an improvement in maul defence across the board over the opening weekend.
“We’ve got to watch where the game is trending and what is actually happening at the moment,” Ryan explained to SEN Radio.
“Around the blocking and access [rules] with the rolling maul, it’s always been there but it just hasn’t been policed as much.
“I think teams are getting pretty good defensively, we are seeing a lot of quick taps come in now. It’s a really big trend in the game.”
The quick taps have been used frequently in the Northern Hemisphere to run a set play around the forwards and the Chiefs were the first team to bag a try with the tactic on Friday night’s opener.
Ryan was still a big supporter of having the maul as an integral part of the game but would make some rule changes to stop the defensive side getting overpowered through sheer numbers.
“Just on the maul, I’m a great believer that is a big part of the game, but I think we could make some adjustments to it,” he explained.
“I believe if you start in that lineout, you should stay in that lineout. You can’t pile numbers in [to the maul].
“When that happens, the next minute you’ve got 14 guys mauling, that’s when it looks messy.
“If you got a lineout, it’s a six plus lineout, well just get on with it and have those guys in there.
“I think that would be a way forward.”
Another suggestion was to stop giving the mauling team a second crack and forcing them to play the ball once they’ve had their first stop.
“Yes I think so, there are ways you can look at that sort of thing,” Ryan said.
“At the All Blacks we don’t like going to ground, we always stay up, we treat that as a reset scrum. We want to keep moving.
“There are things you can tweak but the powers that be will be having those discussions.
“The fact that they are blocking access is a good thing.”