Australia look certain to attract their best players for November’s International Rules series following a number of favourable rules tweaks.
The GAA and AFL have confirmed four modifications to existing rules, all of which to some extent favour Australia, who host a single test on November 22 between the countries.
The Aussies suffered a record 101-point series defeat to Ireland over two tests here last Autumn, threatening the future of the hybrid game.
They were represented by an all-indigenous side. Both the GAA and the AFL accepted the future of the series rests on both countries, particularly Australia, fielding their best players.
The most significant change is that kick-outs will have to travel beyond the 45m line, ensuring an aerial contest for possession, which should suit the more powerful Australians. The other changes are an increase in the number of consecutive hand passes from four to six, an increase in the amount of interchanges — 60 per match — and a law stating marks can’t taken from kicks that travel backwards.
“The main reason for the rule changes was with regard to Australian efforts to attract the best players,” said Ireland tour manager Feargal McGill.
“It would’ve been felt the game required rule modifications to make it more attractive to a broader range of players, rather than simply small fast players. If you want the biggest stars, you must make the game attractive to all of them. We don’t think it will affect our ability to play the game. The most relevant thing is to see the best Aussie players on the field.”
Ireland selector Tony Scullion is open-minded about the changes but admitted several favour Australia. “The Australians would feel their kicking lets them down against Ireland, so if they’re allowed another two passes before kicking, they will look to be closer to the scoring zone at that stage, making a score more likely,” said Scullion.
As for the rule on kick-outs passing the 45m line, Scullion said: “Australia would feel that will do them no harm at all because they would be more than happy to contest for marks with us.”
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