MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian outside back Jack Maddocks is trying hard not to think about wearing the Wallabies jersey at the upcoming World Cup but it is getting more difficult every time he crosses the try-line for the Melbourne Rebels.
The talented 22-year-old, who made his test debut last year, grabbed two tries in the win over the Queensland Reds last weekend to lead Super Rugby with eight from six games.
His rollicking start to the season has put him among the players first picked by pundits tipping the make-up of Michael Cheika’s squad for Japan but the man affectionately nicknamed “Mad Dog” is determined not to get ahead of himself.
“Obviously it’s the pinnacle of rugby. So growing up, I always watched the World Cup, whenever it was on,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
“This year I haven’t put much thought to it, to be honest. I think I’m sort of one of those people that gets motivated by day-to-day things. If I look to far ahead I sort of get off track.
“My sole focus so far has just been on the Rebels.”
An imposing 6ft-4in in height and very quick, Maddocks won his first test cap off the bench against the All Blacks in Sydney last year, got his first start in the return match in Auckland and featured in seven tests in all.
Despite his personal breakthrough, it was a grim start to his international career, with the team losing six of those matches and nine out of 13 for the season.
Maddocks has enjoyed more team success at provincial level, with the Rebels enjoying rare air at the top of the Australian Conference with four wins from six games.
Former Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper has been key in the positive start for the Rebels and Maddocks, and he set up both his team mate’s tries against the Reds with deft kicking.
With Cooper also in good form since reuniting with scrumhalf Will Genia, his old Queensland Reds mucker, it’s not too much of a stretch to see the three Rebels combining in Japan.
Maddocks said there was little planning behind the mercurial Cooper’s array of cross-field kicks and other tricks.
“I think he’s just sort of one of those instinctual players where he has the feel for the game and can feel where you are,” Maddocks said of the 70-test Wallaby.
“It probably looks a lot more planned that it is.
“We just sort of connect up pretty naturally.”
Maddocks will look to add to his try tally at home on Saturday against the Tokyo-based Sunwolves, who have claimed pioneering wins in New Zealand and in Australia this season, felling the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney last week.
The Sunwolves play a similar brand of running rugby to the Rebels and Maddocks said that would suit his team just fine.
“They’ve got a few really good kickers in their side,” he said.
“They’ll probably put us to work in the backfield but I think that sort of suits us because we get the ball and get to play and that excites us.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)