Connacht prop Finlay Bealham is set to make his Ireland debut off the bench against Italy tomorrow (KO 1.30pm).

Cian Healy has been ruled out of the Six Nations clash with a hamstring strain, meaning 24-year-old Bealham has been promoted to the bench. His inclusion makes it five Connacht players included in the match day squad as he joins Nathan White, Ultan Dillane and Kieran Marmion on the bench and Robbie Henshaw starts at inside centre.

Australian-born Bealham, who moved to Ireland to join Belfast Harlequins in 2010, qualifies for Ireland through his Irish grandparents. He was recruited to the Connacht Academy on the back of his performances with the Ireland U20’s in the 2011 Six Nations and Junior World Championship. In 2014, he graduated to a senior contract with Pat Lam’s men and has since racked up 49 senior appearances.

Bealham, who has featured in all 23 games for Connacht this season, can play at loosehead and tighthead, but will cover the former tomorrow against the Italians.

Speaking at the Aviva Stadium today, Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterly said of Bealham:

“He’s slotted in really well, he’s been involved with the squad from the very start. This is his first opportunity to get a taste of Test match rugby. He’s another product of Connacht going really well this year, in the Pro12 in particular and they’re still in the European quarter-finals.

“He’s done really, he’s come in and impressed everyone. He’s done his hard work, got stuck into his job. Now he’s got an opportunity to show what can do at the highest level and I’m sure he’ll be well-equipped for that.”

IRELAND team to play Italy – Saturday 12th March, 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship

15. Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster)
14. Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
13. Jared Payne (Ulster)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht)
11. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
10. Jonathan Sexton (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)

1. Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (c)
3. Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
4. Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
6. CJ Stander (Munster)
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (vc)

Replacements

16. Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
17. Finlay Bealham (Corinthians/Connacht)
18. Nathan White (Connacht)
19. Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht)
20. Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster)
21. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)
22. Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
23. Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

 

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