Duffy warns latest International Rules series 'has to work' or it will get chop
The latest incarnation of the International Rules series "has to work" to secure its future, according to the GAA's director general Paraic Duffy.
The GAA and AFL confirmed yesterday that the series would be renewed for just one Test in November and not two as had been previously mooted by Croke Park.
One-sided successes for Ireland in the last two series had put the future of the clashes in doubt yet again, but the Aussies are set to be much more competitive this time around, after confirming that they will pick only players who have won a coveted All-Australian award.
Alastair Clarkson, coach of reigning Premiership champions Hawthorn, will also take charge of the Australian side.
"The series here last year was disappointing and in a sense this has to work," Duffy insisted. "If this doesn't work I think it will be the end of the series. It has to work."
The Test will be staged in 43,082-capacity Patersons Stadium – the home of both Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles – on November 22.
The later-than-usual date should mean much of the club activity in this country will have been completed. Duffy also explained that some "minor" rule changes could be on the cards.
"Because they are confining their team to All-Australians they are conscious they could have quite a few big players so they want to make some slight changes to the rules," Duffy revealed.
"There may be an increase in the number of fisted passes, a couple of things like that, but nothing that will affect how the game is played. It hasn't been finalised yet.
"In terms of the future it will be determine by what happens this year. What the model will be in the future I really do not know.
"We'll sit down in Australia and decide where we go from here. We'll see. It is a possibility we could play it every year and play one game. We might decide to go back to two games – I really don't know."
While Ireland manager Paul Earley admitted a preference for a two and even three-game Test series, he was pleased to see the Australians would be fielding their strongest possible side.
"The whole premise behind the series was that the best of Ireland took on the best of Australia," Earley said.
"When that has happened, it has been great, but when it's one-sided it's not that attractive to players or supporters.
"I think there'll be a fair bit of marketing behind it and they have chosen a venue that they can fill. It's a little bit later in the year too so that will give us a chance to prepare a little bit better."
Earley confirmed that Ireland will look to play a warm-up game in Melbourne with opposition yet to be determined.
"We're working with the AFL to find a suitable game and we're going to need a strong practice game before the Test.
"Last year we developed a lot from the first Test and learned a lot from it. So that game is very significant.
"It would be important that it would be against an Australian team. It could be the VFL or an amateur team. There are a number of options there that we'll explore."
Ireland have retained the same management team for the Test with Earley ready to start building his squad when the championship kicks off.
"We'll be at all the games to see who is in form. The players who played last year and performed so well are in the driving seat but we'll also be casting the net wide and we'll have a look at other players."
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