Crikey. All it took was a couple of rolling Argentinian mauls and the rugby world is in uproar, as if no one had ever seen a pile of slowly moving bodies on a rugby field before.

Mild panic. That's what I sense out of the All Black camp. They've been rumbled, in more ways than one. Caught with their pants down. The coaches, who receive a lot of well-justified praise, can't get it right all the time, and in this case they haven't.

If the All Blacks had an Achilles heel, they needed to move heaven and earth not to expose it before the World Cup. They failed to defend at two lineouts which led to Pumas tries in Christchurch, and conceded more ground afterwards.

Coach Steve Hansen's claim that rolling mauls are "bloody boring", a blight on the game, is subjective for starters. The Argentinians certainly seemed to enjoy them.


Then he attacked the laws, and called for a change which would allow mauls to be pulled down, a little farcical considering the timing. Hansen wasn't really speaking to the wider world of course. He was hoping to put a few seeds of something in the minds of the World Cup referees. But the relevant laws are not going to change before the World Cup, if ever, so it is still hard to know what Hansen is trying to achieve.

What he should have done was look the rest of the world in the eye, claimed the All Blacks maul was the best of them, that Owen Franks tears old cars apart with his bare hands for a hobby, and dared all-comers to try lineout drives at their peril. That's what men in black do. Richie McCaw took this more belligerent line, revealing how he loved being part of a thundering herd rumbling towards a tryline (although he may not have put it like that).

But wait, there is more, and it smacked of concerning desperation.

Steve Hansen and the All Black players reflect on the match following the All Blacks win over Argentina last night.

Hansen claimed: "You're not allowed to have a back move where someone runs along the front of everybody and doesn't let them tackle somebody, so have the same principles in a lineout."

Incorrect in my book. Rugby is rife with what is called the second man play in league. The ball is often passed behind a short wall of players who are there to impede and obscure defenders.

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I absolutely love watching a good rolling maul and it's far more exciting than those static pods dotted throughout rugby. Now, they are boring. With a big crowd in and everything on the line in a major test, the sight of behemoths wrestling in epic swirling combat is magnificent, not boring.

Agonising scrum contests and heaving mauls are what great test rugby can be about. They also serve another purpose, tiring out forwards and drawing players to one spot, leaving a few more gaps on congested fields.

If mauls can be collapsed then fewer maul defenders will be needed, leaving fewer gaps elsewhere. We'll get fewer mauls and more pods.


The maul, or the threat of it, helps dictate the shape of players and we don't want too many gazelles out there either. At the very least, these are arguments worth considering, rather than simply whining about the maul per se because cause and effect has tripped up a rugby rule change or two over the years.

As for even mentioning rule changes two months out from the World Cup, what a load of boring nonsense. Maybe Hansen had an off day, like his lineout. Or maybe it was mild panic.