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Confirmed: International Rules Series is returning to a two-Test format next year

Joe Kernan’s Ireland squad will travel to Australia in 12 months’ time.

Aidan O'Shea in action against Australia in Perth in 2014.
Aidan O'Shea in action against Australia in Perth in 2014.

THE INTERNATIONAL RULES Series between Ireland and Australia will return to a two-Test format next year, it has been confirmed.

Next year’s series will take place on 11 and 18 November Down Under, although the venues for the fixtures are yet to be confirmed.

The series moved to one-off Tests following Ireland’s comprehensive series win against an under-strength Australian outfit in 2013, putting the future of the international fixture in doubt unless the AFL’s best players regained an interest.

However, as a result of two competitive, one-off Test matches — a 10-point win for Australia in Perth in 2014 and a four-point win for Ireland in Croke Park last year — and a revamped AFL selection policy, the series will once again be contested over two matches from next November.

As previously mooted, a return series is scheduled to then be played in Ireland in 2019.

“We are pleased to confirm the re-instatement of a two-game series commencing next year in Australia when Joe Kernan will bring the Irish team Down Under,” GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl said.

“We believe the two-game series is a logical development after the success of the last two single-games series, given the distances involved and the potential to generate even more momentum around the games.

“We look forward to renewing rivalries with the best the AFL has to offer and we acknowledge the progress made in recent months with our AFL counterparts in helping to confirm the plans for 2017.”

AFL general manager of football operations Mark Evans said the commitment to field a team comprised only of All-Australian players, their equivalent of the All-Stars, had been crucial to the agreement to extend the series again.

“The one-off Test matches in Perth and Dublin over the last two years were two high-class encounters played in front of very strong crowds.

“Australian and Irish fans have shown they want to see a spectacular and competitive contest played between the most talented AFL players and Ireland’s best Gaelic footballers,” Mr Evans said.

“Restricting selection to only a player who has earned All-Australian selection through his AFL career has ensured the prestige of playing in the International Rules Series and we look forward to hosting the Irish side again next year.”

There had also previously been talk about staging an exhibition game between the sides in the United States, however there have been no further developments confirmed on that front.

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