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Principle Four: Continuity – General Play, Post Tackle, Ruck and


Form a ruck or maul to create space by grouping players around the ball and creating offside lines. Also use the maul to go forward.


To avoid the defence taking away the space of the attack in general play use a ruck or a maul to create linear space using offside lines and to move the ball forward.

General play is play in which there is no defensive offside lines no space between the defence and the attack. A defender can position next to an attacker well behind the line of the ball.

When a ruck or maul is formed players not involved must be behind the hindmost foot of their ruck or maul. This creates space for the attack.

To form a ruck, you need at least one player from each team bound and in contact over the ball that is on the ground.

To form a maul, you need at least 2 attackers, one with the ball, bound to one defender.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rucks and Mauls


  1. The ruck can lead to quick ball however any delay enables the defence to reload and become organised.
  2. The ball being on the ground cannot be handled until it is out of the ruck so, within the ruck; the ball cannot be moved forward.
  3. Because of this the defence may commit to the tackle but if they can see no prospect of regaining possession of the ball they will reload into the defensive line.
  4. They can contest ruck ball by driving as a bound unit parallel to the touch line beyond the ball. Counter rucking can be used to regain possession.
  5. Because the attack feels the need to commit players to the ruck to retain possession when they attack those in the defence line often outnumber the attack. The solution is to overload channel play with those you have especially if you can play to a miss match.
  6. Because of the lack of commitment by the defence the general play situation is now created with all the difficulties caused by there being no offside line giving the attack no linear space to go forward.


  1. Currently the predominant attitude is that mauls are not formed deliberately. They occur when a tackler tackles the ball carrier at the level of the ball looking to exploit the law that will result in a turnover at the scrum if the attack is unable to deliver the ball.
  2. The maul can be deliberately formed to avoid this situation. Under these circumstances the structure will result in both the ball being protected, back from the line of contact, and the participants bound and positioned as if they were in a scrum to move the ball down the field.
  3. Delivery must be in accordance with the law and the scrum half should communicate this to avoid a turnover.
  4. Mauls are not common in the current game apart from the involuntary ones and referees are unaccustomed to them. The tendency is to rule the deliberate maul as if it was the post tackle/contested variety and the maul prematurely being ruled as a turnover.
  5. Under the current unsatisfactory situation in which the ruck is not rewarding the attack for gaining possession with time and space the deliberate maul has a significant role to play.

Continuity – General Play, Ruck and Maul

General Play

In addition to penetrating and drawing the defence to the ball carrier the other way of creating space is to form a ruck or a maul.

In sevens avoiding contact can lead to the attack backing up and not forming either of these formations.

This allows the defence to take away their space with each backward pass isolating each receiver from those who are ahead of them.

This is because the game is now in general play and, for the defence, there is no offside line. A defender can position next to an attacker well past the line of the ball.

Should an attack be faced with this situation the attacking option is probably straight ahead down a channel from the post tackle situation or to use the blind-side. This will force the defence to defend on the left and the right.

The other option is to make a recoverable kick behind the defence.

What should not be done is pass the ball to an attacker whose defender is standing close by.

Forming an Attacking Ruck:

The tackled player should react to the tackle in order to retain possession:

  1. If the tackle is to the upper body to prevent the release of the ball the ball carrier should use leg drive to go as far as possible. In doing this team mates will be able to assist by binding and driving forward. The ball can then be made available because support and momentum will result in the defence being be less able to create a turnover.
  2. The drive will loosen the hold on the ball carrier and by driving a knee to the ground the tackle will be completed and, immediately, the defence will have to allow the ball carrier to play the ball. This is a technical issue as placement of the ball in the tackle must make it available to the attack.
  3. Should the action not be immediate possession may have to be conceded to the defence. See Defence below.
  4. By drawing the defender and then attempting to step to left or right, the tackle is likely to be to the lower body. By turning in the direction of the tackle, the ball carrier is able to make a long place in the direction of support players who can continue play.
  5. The player who last passed the ball or an attacking sweeper can recover the ball or drive through the line of the ball to bind with an opponent to form a ruck. A further player may be needed to ensure possession is retained.
  6. Care must be taken to provide a hindmost foot, so the ruck is not over enabling the opposition to grab the ball.

Forming a Maul

  1. Mauls are formed when players are grouped. This is most likely when receiving a kick-off and at a lineout. This doesn’t mean they cannot be formed elsewhere but because attackers are too spread out a specific call would be needed if they wanted to form a maul.
  2. Obviously, numbers are limited however a three-player maul is an option.
  3. The ball carrier drives forward with the shoulder driving from down to up into an opponent.
  4. A second player drives in with the opposite shoulder and binds to form a wedge.
  5. A third player drives in like a number 8 between the 2-man front row and takes the ball away from the line of contact.
  6. The defence will tend to look around to see what is happening as the maul is not common and a call is needed to exploit this. Use the scrum calls of “crouch”, “bind” – to keep one defender bound, and “set” or push. This will co-ordinate the mauls explosive move forward.
  7. Be sure to deliver before the second stationary situation occurs.
  8. The drive can be straight down the field or, if the maul turns, the runner can peel off and close quarter passing down the linear channel can take place.