Finlay Bealham set to feature again for Connacht this season with Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen back next week

Finlay Bealham of Ireland is tackled by Gregory Alldritt, left, and Demba Bamba of France during the Six Nations match at Stade de France last year. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht hope Irish prop Finlay Bealham might be back for their last few games at the end of the season.

The 31-year-old is recovering from a twisted knee, suffered against Italy, which saw him miss the Six Nations wins over Scotland and England, but Connacht say he is expected to return to training in mid-April.

That could make him available as they close out their URC campaign with ties against Cardiff and Glasgow as they bid for a knockout spot and a Champions Cup place, while he would also be available if they reached the semi-finals of this season’s European Challenge Cup.

But the more immediate concern is extending the three-match winning run, which has brought them right into contention, when they host Edinburgh at the Sportsground this Saturday.

However, it’s unlikely skipper Jack Carty will be available after missing the away win over Dragons with a hamstring injury.

David Hawkshaw is poised to again start at out-half with Tom Daly providing cover as Conor Fitzgerald, believed to be among the players departing the Sportsground this summer, ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.

The loss of tight-head Bealham is compounded with experienced loosehead Denis Buckley ruled out with an ankle injury for a game Connacht really have to win to stay in contention.

And they are boosted by the availability by capped hooker Dave Heffernan, with academy hooker Eoin de Buitlear also recovered from a finger injury suffered in Parma, where he made his debut last month.

Connacht director of rugby Andy Friend said that Irish stars Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen are expected back next week as they prepare for their Challenge Cup showdown with Benetton in Treviso.

“Hopefully, we get back Mack and Bundee as of next week leading into Benetton away,” said Friend.

He said the loss of Carty and Buckley was big but stressed they have depth in the squad.

“You want your more experienced players out there on the field. You have got a lot of caps, who aren’t going to be out there with those two men not being there, but we can only deal with what we have got.

“We will still have a very good 23 going out there. We know Edinburgh are actually a very rugby side. There are sitting there with only five wins at the minute, but that’s probably not reflective of the quality they have got,” he added.