IT'S the great International Rules catch-22. Excessive aggression spilling into fairly spectacular violence fuels competitiveness and, by extension, public interest ... à la the now-dubbed 'ill-fated' 2006 series.
Take away the spite, just like two years ago in Australia, and it ceases to be a particularly attractive spectator sport. "All it takes is one incident or one player to be indisciplined and it could flare up again," conceded Paul Earley at his official unveiling as Ireland manager in Croke Park yesterday.
"The Series in 2006, I think following that, everybody was able to take a little bit of a step back and there were some rule changes and efforts to get back to the core of what this is all about when it was set up initially."
Earley yesterday revealed his backroom team for the two-game series in Kingspan Breffni Park and Croke Park this October, comprising former Dublin footballer and Herald columnist Ciarán Whelan, Derry's Tony Scullion and Seamus McCarthy of Tipperary.
And similarly, Earley – who played with Melbourne in the Victorian Football League in 1983 and '84 – also admitted that a lack of Australian interest in 2011, when they named an inexperienced squad and Anthony Tohill's men won by an aggregate of 65 points, had detracted from the authenticity of the Tests.
"I think the last Series in particular, maybe the squad they had wasn't very strong anyway, the Irish squad was much stronger," he explained. "There was probably an element of that after the 2006 Series that they were warned, I suppose, to hold back. There needs to be a physical element to it, that's one of the attractions. But it also needs to be played at a high pace.
"It is about being competitive and about trying to win but it is also about sharing and learning and also a bit of a social element as well, and I think that has been missed over a period.
"A lot of that is because of the incidents that took place. (But) that's understandable – that creates a very fractious relationship with those type of incidents."