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Irish aim to pass first International Rules Test

By John Campbell

Ireland manager Sean Boylan is hoping to strike gold early in the International Rules series against Australia today.

Boylan has already emphasised to his team the importance of winning the first Test in Perth as a prelude to perhaps clinching the series in Melbourne next week.

"Winning the first Test in any series is always vital,” said Boylan.

Ireland captain Sean Cavanagh leads his side into the contest after reiterating that the levels of discipline displayed today and in the second Test on Friday next in Melbourne will determine the whole future of the series.

Both Cavanagh and Boylan want the Ireland side not only to win the series but to triumph in style.

“We know that we are under pressure to produce our best in both Tests. A lot of work has gone into getting the International Rules back on the rails and we certainly don’t want to undo this,” added Cavanagh.

Australia went into today’s confrontation with the backing of an enthusiastic crowd and a marked determination to extend their recent dominance in the series.

The Aussies won the 2005 and 2006 Test series before the International Rules was put into cold storage last year following the violence that marred the ‘06 matches in particular.

Manager Boylan concedes, though, that his side will be up against it today.

The players, who trained in Fremantle in temperatures of 35 degrees, were having difficulty adjusting to the new rule which restricts the number of hand passes to four.

"It was amazing the number of times players were getting caught because you know the way it is at home with taking so many steps and some players get away with it.

"In our last session before today’s Test, half-a-dozen times we got caught with it - Pat McEnaney, who is the Ireland referees for the series, was very strict with it.

"I think once you get out there in the heat of battle you’ll do it right. It’s the best you can hope because the practice sessions are to correct the things you’re doing wrong."

Australia assistant manager Nathan Buckley, a former outstanding exponent of the International Rules code, believes the visitors will be keen to make up for their failures in the series in 2005 and 2006.

"In all competitive sports, play tends to ebb and flow and the latest rule changes make it extremely competitive once again,” maintains Buckley.

"We have competed well and won the last two series, but if you look over the longevity of the competition, it is so very close.”

Buckley rejects the idea that the rule changes, which include a restriction on the number of hand passes, should be used to even up the series by making it harder for one team to win or easier for another to regain competitiveness.

"There was probably only one one-sided result and that was here in Perth in ’05. If you need to change rules to make the game competitive, I don’t think that is a legitimate consideration. We believe we have won on our merits in the last couple of years and that when the Irish have won, they have won on their merits and not because of rule changes or adjustments."

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