Australia open doors for fresh sevens blood
NEWS: He’s already lured a “Jack of all trades” and Australian men’s rugby sevens coach Tim Walsh says there’s definitely time for more to join ahead of Tokyo’s Olympics next year.
An unlucky omission from the Wallabies’ World Cup squad, backline talent Jack Maddocks will be part of the country’s Games qualification quest in Fiji later this week.
Seventh in the last world series, Australia missed their first chance to automatically qualify for Tokyo and now must win the title in Suva to earn a spot.
New Zealand and Fiji have already qualified so won’t be hurdles Australia face this weekend, leaving Samoa – sixth overall last season – as Australia’s main threat.
Walsh said Maddocks’ all-round skill set was perfectly suited to a side looking to improve their physicality in the crash and bang code.
“He’s our Jack of all trades if you like; you can’t have a weakness and I think last season our defence … it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great,” he told AAP.
“Teams planned to run through us, not around us.”
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Maddocks and former Wallabies flyer Rod Davies are both in Suva with a squad of 15 that will be whittled to 13 on Tuesday.
Former 100m sprinter Trae Williams won’t play, with Walsh describing him as a work in progress since announcing his sporting switch in May.
On temporary loan, Maddocks may not continue with the sevens program beyond this tournament, but Walsh will entertain all options as they first seek qualification then improvement.
“After the World Cup the next big event in rugby is the Olympics so we’d hope to have access to anyone wanting to be part of that,” Walsh said.
“They’d need to play six or seven tournaments – we definitely wouldn’t parachute anyone in – but it’s definitely not too late.”
Failure in Fiji would leave Australia with one last chance to qualify in a do-or-die tournament on the eve of the Games next year.
Walsh isn’t entertaining that route though, with lead-up games against world champions Fiji in Suva five weeks ago and the recruitment of Maddocks examples of their all-in approach.
Australia are pooled with Tonga, Nauru, American Samoa and Vanuatu, while Samoa – who beat Australia twice last year – wait in the opposing pool.
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