International Rules violence? ‘Well behind us’ says Joe Kernan

‘The game doesn’t require over-physicality to make it a good spectacle for the fans’

 Australian coach Chris Scott, Australian captain Shaun Burgoyne, Ireland’s catain Aidan O’Shea with the Cormac McAnnellen Trophy and Ireland coach Joe Kernan. Photograph: Mark Brake/Getty Images

Australian coach Chris Scott, Australian captain Shaun Burgoyne, Ireland’s catain Aidan O’Shea with the Cormac McAnnellen Trophy and Ireland coach Joe Kernan. Photograph: Mark Brake/Getty Images

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For the final media event before Sunday’s first test in the Adelaide Oval, the captains and coaches convened on the Torrens River Footbridge, which connects the city to the stadium.

The themes covered were the familiar ones: the illness in the Ireland camp and although the Australians have a physical advantage over the visitors, there’ll be no return to the bad old days, will there?

Joe Kernan was able to report optimism that the afflicted players can all play some role.

“We had three players (who were sick). Two of them are feeling a whole lot better and hopefully tomorrow they will all be doing well. We think they will all play at some stage. It might not be what we wanted but we’re hoping that they will still be able to take part.”

He also confirmed that Saturday’s run-out had been cancelled.

“Yes. The boys have done a good bit of work. We had a good session the other day (Thursday) in the heat. It was good high tempo. The boys used the ball well. There’s no sense in wearing people out - we’ll save what we have for tomorrow.”

His counterpart Chris Scott played for Australia in the 2001 series and his memories continue to inform his view of the international game.

“I was very fortunate to have played myself. The lasting impression for me was the skill and agility of the Irish. I tended to play in the back half and if they get past you, you’re not catching them. We’re conscious of what they do with the ball but their speed, their leg speed, is exhilarating as well.

“But we’re conscious - even back when I played - that we need to play as a unit because if it gets too one-on-one and you get isolated against those guys, you don’t have much of a chance.

“It’s a physical game. The tackling is an integral part of the game. It’s important that we execute that well. Zach Tuohy plays with us (Geelong) and he’d be as good a tackler as we have. It would be crazy to underestimate the skill of the Irish in that department.

“In terms of overall physicality, we think the game stands up and doesn’t require over-physicality to make it a good spectacle for the fans. We think we have an obligation to play the game in the right spirit so this series can not only continue but thrive.”

That issue of excessive physicality spilling into the scenes that as one reporter mentioned are popular views on YouTube - possibly for parents of unruly children - was also addressed by Kernan when asked was it all in the past.

“Well behind us,” the Irish manager reassured. “Both organisations laid down the law that they didn’t want that any more. We want it physical but we want it within the rules. We want people on the edge of their seats and that’s all part of the game.”

One practical complication has been the lack of access to the match venue which has been staging a cricket match but he dismissed this as a concern.

“Not really. We trained in Melbourne on Richmond’s pitch, which gave us a fair idea of the size and width but the measurements of the field are the same as we play all the time so that won’t be a problem.”

Scott finally paid tribute to Shaun Burgoyne, who has been handed the Australian captaincy, in keeping with a recent policy of recognising veteran players who have contributed to the series.

“As much as anyone he has committed to what we’re trying to do and he’s a natural leader in his own right. It is a big occasion for the players and to have an indigenous captain of Australia going into this series we thought was really fitting.”

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