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All Australian reps only for International Rules

Nick Bowen  April 23, 2014 10:00 AM

Irish gig, cross Ross and more Matt Thompson brings you all the very latest footy news
ONLY All Australian players will be eligible to represent Australia in this year's International Rules Series under a raft of changes to the hybrid competition designed to revive the flagging rivalry with Ireland.

The AFL announced on Wednesday that the IRS would continue in Australia later this year with a one-off Test at Perth's Patersons Stadium on Saturday, November 22 – the first time in the competition's 30-year history that just one game will decide the series winner.

All Australians: full list of eligible International Rules players

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson will coach the Australian team, while Collingwood president Eddie McGuire's considerable spruiking skills will put to use when he takes on the promotional role of Chef de Mission.

The Australian team will not be selected exclusively from this year's All Australian team, with players selected in previous All Australian teams also eligible.

The series will almost certainly be played under modified rules too, with the AFL and Gaelic Athletic Association well advanced in rule discussions aimed at ensuring AFL ruckmen and key position players can compete successfully under the hybrid competition rules.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans told the League and GAA had "a lot of good-natured discussions" about the IRS's future in the wake of last year's series in Ireland, the second consecutive series that the Irish had won by a record margin.
Evans said the AFL and GAA had agreed that for the IRS to continue both Australia and Ireland had to field their best players.
"We agreed that we should investigate that as an option and if we couldn't do that then the series is not compelling enough to run," Evans said.
Evans said the AFL had consulted extensively with stars including Travis Boak, Patrick Dangerfield, Darren Glass, Luke Hodge, Steve Johnson, Nic Naitanui, Scott Pendlebury, Nick Riewoldt, Joel Selwood and Jobe Watson about how to attract the best AFL players back to the IRS.
Evans was confident the 2014 series' new format would help address previous concerns that convinced players not to take part.

"By limiting selection to All Australian players, by scheduling the Test later in the year at the end of most players' leave, and by amending the rules, we believe we will field a strong and competitive Australian side that will re-establish the event's standing in the eyes of fans," he said.

Evans and Clarkson said the fact this year's series would pushed back from the traditional mid-to-late October timeslot to late November would help alleviate any club reluctance to let players participate.

"We've found that the end of November, end of (the player) leave period, was a time where it was going to suit everyone best," Clarkson said.

In the past two series, Australia has fielded undermanned teams that have lost by record margins.

In 2011, the squad captained by Brad Green lost by a combined 65 points, while last year the all-indigenous team that travelled to Ireland was even more comprehensively defeated, losing by 101 points.

GAA president Liam O'Neill said such one-sided series had negatively affected attendances and general public interest in the IRS, but that this year's later fixture would assist enormously with player availability.

"A sell-out crowd in November and a competitive contest that engages attendance would certainly give us something to build on for the future," he said.

No IRS fixture is scheduled beyond this year's contest, the success of which Evans agreed would be crucial to the hybrid competition's future.

But Evans was confident the November Test would attract a good crowd at Patersons Stadium and strong TV ratings.

"Working with our players to find out what they think will make this a success, might just deliver the blueprint for the future," Evans said.

In the IRS's initial stint from 1984-1990, series consisted of three Tests, but a two-Test format has been used since the IRS was revived in 1998.

Twitter: @AFL_Nick