Goalkeeper to captain Aussies for first test

Essendon full-back Dustin Fletcher, who will be Australia's goalkeeper for the upcoming International Rules series, will captain his country in Saturday's first Test against Ireland.

Essendon full-back Dustin Fletcher, who will be Australia's goalkeeper for the upcoming International Rules series, will captain his country in Saturday's first Test against Ireland.

The 31-year-old will lead out the Cormac McAnallen Cup holders for the sold-out clash at Salthill's Pearse Stadium (throw-in 7.15pm).

Australian coach Kevin Sheedy has decided to have two captains for the series with Sydney Swans attacker Barry Hall, the shaven-headed team-mate of Kerryman Tadhg Kennelly, set to skipper the visitors for the second Test at Croke Park on Sunday week.

Sheedy has a 'leadership group' for the series which includes Fletcher, Hall, Lindsay Gilbee (Western Bulldogs), Matthew Lappin (Carlton), Ryan O'Keefe (Sydney) and Michael Voss (Brisbane Lions).

The Australians are currently based in Killarney in County Kerry, having flown into Ireland on Sunday. Sheedy's charges went through a 90-minute session at Killarney's Fitzgerald Stadium yesterday and are due to train twice today.

Speaking of his captaincy role, Fletcher said: "Obviously there are some great players in the side and to be named captain for thefirst Test is great and obviously 'Bazza' (Hall) is captain for the second game, so it's a big thrill.

"This ranks pretty high up (in my career) and even last year, the victory we had against the Irish in Australia was very high up and to come over here and to come away with the guys and try and take on the Irish on their home soil is up there with the top three things in your career, for sure."

Explaining the selection process for the leadership group, the dual Premiership star added: "On the plane a few of the boys got sheets to fill in - saying what it means to play for Australia and one of the questions was about the leadership group and it said, name your top three players. So it came through that."

Fletcher was also Australian's goalkeeper for last year's series Down Under, and on the topic of net minding, he conceded: "I did a bit yesterday and to have the ball kicked at you pretty hard - waterlogged balls I dare say in at least one of the games - so it is a hard job at times, but something I like doing and it's something I find I can do it well."

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