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Bealham ready for shot at first Ireland start after facing down the haka

The 25-year-old was delighted to be part of the win over New Zealand.

FINLAY BEALHAM APPEARED to get his death stare right on the money during the haka at Soldier Field last weekend.

The Connacht man was certainly feeling the emotion as Ireland stood in a figure of eight in memory of Anthony Foley, but he explains that the stern frown wasn’t simply down to a mental intensity.

“A few lads and people from home were sending me pictures afterwards,” says Bealham with a smile. “I think the sun was blinding me. I couldn’t really see so I was squinting a little bit.”

Bealham Bealham stares down the haka.

Perhaps Bealham’s expression was not quite the intimidating pose it was perceived to be, but he was as enthusiastic about Ireland’s tribute to Foley as the rest of his team-mates.

“It started on Thursday; they brought it up that we were going to pay tribute to Axel. That was a really big moment for me, it was really touching and meant a lot to all the lads. Hopefully, he was watching down on Saturday with a lot of pride.

We walked through it after the captain’s run on Friday and we all had our little positions, they had it down on a piece of paper where we where going to be. Everyone knew where they had to be so there wasn’t too much confusion on Saturday.”

Even the haka responses of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland are planned in detail, echoing so much of their work on the pitch in what was a major milestone for his squad.

The vast majority of Ireland’s plans for the game itself also bore fruit, as they tend to do under Schmidt.

Bealham played 23 minutes off the bench at tighthead for Ireland, replacing the impressive Tadhg Furlong and contributing solidly.

He was a vital cog at the crucial scrum that provided the the platform for Robbie Henshaw’s game-securing try, getting a nudge up on his side to help tie in the All Blacks’ back row.

Josh van der Flier celebrates winning Bealham celebrates Ireland's win. Source: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Up against Ofa Tu’ungafasi, the signs from Bealham on what was just his third Ireland cap were very good.

“He’s a big man, about 6’5″ and 125kg,” says Bealham of the Blues front row. “I scrummaged against him back in the day when I played for Australian Schools, so a few years later I scrummaged against him again.

“He’s a nice guy, I was talking to him after the game. A few of us swapped jerseys after the game and they were very friendly guys.”

Bealham’s parents weren’t able to make it over to Chicago from Australia, but his girlfriend was there for what was one of the biggest moments of his career so far.

“I had a couple of beers after the game, took it pretty handy and just went up and chilled out in the hotel room. I was on the phone to the parents for a good bit. The time difference meant that they had to get up quite early to watch the match.

“It was my first proper chance to get to talk to them for a week because we had a pretty hectic week. They were stoked and it was a great day.”

The next time Bealham’s parents tune in from Australia, they may well be watching him make his first start for Ireland.

Finlay Bealham and Keith Earls Bealham with Keith Earls before yesterday's training session. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With Furlong set to be rested after his exploits in Chicago, it looks like Schmidt will give Bealham the nod to start, with John Ryan in reserve.

“Every opportunity you get to represent Ireland is a massive opportunity,” says Bealham of his possible chance.

We have parked the New Zealand game as of Monday night and we are solely focusing on Canada this week. They have a big strong pack with some athletic forwards; we need to be prepared accordingly.

“I wouldn’t think about it too much, it’s just another opportunity to pull on the green jersey. Every time you do that you know it is a big occasion. I will just looking to do my best on Saturday.”

- This article was updated at 11.00 to amend an error in the 18th paragraph whereby ‘Furlong’ had erronously been included twice in the same sentence. 

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Murray Kinsella

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