Friday 20 April 2018

Finlay Bealham ready to step up to the plate as Cian Healy ruled out

Ireland's Finlay Bealham, left, and Stuart McCloskey
Ireland's Finlay Bealham, left, and Stuart McCloskey
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby says he has no doubts about Connacht prop Finlay Bealham’s ability to adapt to Test match rugby after he was promoted to the bench for tomorrow’s Six Nations clash against Italy.

Joe Schmidt has taken the decision not to risk Cian Healy after he pulled up with a hamstring injury in training yesterday. Scans revealed a minor strain and he is not being ruled out of next week’s final game against Scotland.

Australian born front-row Bealham has been involved in the squad since the beginning of the Six Nations, but would win his first cap if introduced against the Azzurri.

“He’s slotted in really well,” the former flanker said at yesterday’s Captain’s Run press conference.

“He’s been involved from the start, this is his first opportunity to get Test rugby. Connacht are going very well, he’s impressed everyone and it’s down to his hard work.

“He can play both sides of the scrum, which is pretty important. First and foremost, he has to get his focus on the scrum right. He’s comfortable with ball in hand, it’s a big step up from Pro12 to Six Nations, but it’s a step that we feel he’s ready to make.”

The injury is the latest blow to Healy who recently signed a three-year contract with the IRFU, but Easterby said that he fully expects the Leinster man to be available next weekend.

“No player likes to pick up niggles and that’s what it is,” he said.

“It’s something that he’s had to deal with. It’s frustrating, but he’s mature enough to accept the reasons and to know that it won’t compromise next week.”

Captain Rory Best has acknowledged that tomorrow’s game is a must-win affair as he searches for his first victory as skipper.

“It’d be very disappointing to lose, we know it’s going to be tough but we’re at home and our best performance has come at home against Wales,” he said.

“We do need to produce a result, we won’t hide from that. We’re pleased with bits and pieces of games, but there’s large elements that we’re not happy with. Ultimately, a result would be a big lift for us.”

Schmidt conceded that he is feeling the pressure after the worst run of results in his time in charge, but Best has full faith that things can be turned around under the New Zealander’s watch.

“This is one of the best coaching set-ups that I’ve ever been involved in. We know that we haven’t delivered on the promise that we make each other during the week,” he said.

“It’s always nice to get a win and that’s ultimately what we want to do.”

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