Finlay Bealham: ‘We will have to raise our game to a new level’

Leinster's Hugo Keenan is tackled by Connacht's Finlay Bealham during their Heineken Champions Cup match at The Sportsground. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Cian Tracey

Fresh after featuring in all five of Ireland’s Six Nations games, Finlay Bealham returned to Connacht with a pep in his step.

Bealham is currently enjoying the best spell of his career and if he can maintain that fine form, particularly at scrum-time, he will enhance Connacht’s chances of causing an upset against Leinster tomorrow.

No longer switching between loosehead and tighthead, Bealham has become a stalwart in the Connacht No 3 jersey, and he will hope to finish the season well, in order to guarantee himself more game-time on Ireland’s summer tour to New Zealand.

“I’m enjoying it the most that I have, in terms of coming in every day and having a smile on my face, having the craic with the lads and enjoying the process,” Bealham (30) said.

“I’ve been fortunate to get a few Ireland caps in the last 12-18 months which is obviously brilliant and a massive honour. I play my best rugby when I’m enjoying it.

“If I was stiff and nervous and in my shell I probably wouldn’t play so good, but I’m a lot more confident in myself that I can really express my character in the group. If that can translate to good performances, and give an edge to the boys it’s brilliant.”

Bealham will come up against plenty of familiar faces in the front-row at the Aviva Stadium, but playing with more confidence than ever, he is relishing the challenge.

“I was going to say I’m another year older and another year wiser, but I don’t know about the wiser bit,” he smiled.

“I just really enjoy the environment that Andy Friend and the coaches have created and I just relish how I can be myself.

“One of the best bits of advice I’ve got is to just be yourself and relish it. It’s what I try to do day-in and day-out, and try and bring that energy to the lads and enjoy the work.

“I’ve been really fortunate to be involved with Ireland in the last 18 months, and a lot of that has come down to how I’ve been preparing and my attitude. I suppose, I’m more of an older leader in the squad now.

“We need to be another level better, and that’s in all areas of our game, defensively, set-piece and in attack we have to bring it to another level. We have to meet fire with fire,” Bealham added.

“I have been involved in a few teams that have beaten Leinster over the years. Every time we have beaten them, we have been really well prepared and everyone is across their detail early in the week so we can deliver that physicality.

“We are going to have to raise our game to a whole new level. We have to make it happen for ourselves.”