Connacht prop Finlay Bealham is hoping to depart Kingspan Stadium with a first win and leave his Ulster family upset after the first inter-pro derby of the season this Friday in Belfast.
Australian-born Bealham qualified to play for Ireland due to his mother’s Fermanagh roots, and after spending some time in the Ulster academy, the Connacht front row has significant ties to the white shirt.
Having beaten Ulster in Galway last spring, Bealham is keen to deliver one better for Connacht tomorrow and give his new coach Kieran Keane an away win and their second win of the season.
“My mum’s side of the family is all from there. I went up to Enniskillen, I sent a lot of time up there as a kid. I have family in Belfast and family in Enniskillen, so there will be a few of them in the game hopefully cheering for us,” said Bealham.
“We had a great win here against them last year. It’s always a good game when we play Ulster. We have to meet fire with fire. It is going to be very physical on Friday and I’m sure the lads will be primed up ready to go for that.
“They have some really big forwards up there and they come and try and smash you up front with scrums, mauls and the carry into contact. We need to make sure we are physically primed and ready to go up there and meet that challenge head-on.”
In that win at the Sportsground, Bealham switched from the tighthead side to the loose due to injuries in the front row. He ended up scrummaging against his former teammate in Connacht, Rodney Ah You, and he is excited about pitting himself against Ah You and the other Irish- qualified props in the Ulster set-up again as he bids to catch the eye of Irish selectors.
“I switched around a little bit last year, I think Denis Buckley and Ronan Loughney were injured. I switched across against Rodders (Ah You).
“It was just like training, there was plenty of times out there when I was at loosehead and he was at tighthead, and sometimes the other way round. I am familiar enough scrummaging against him.
“Inter-pros are a stage where you think alright I’m going against my fellow countrymen that are pushing for Irish spots. It’s almost like a dress rehearsal for the November tests and the Six Nations or summer tour.
“I think it goes up a notch naturally. You’re up against players that are competing for spots so we’ll have a good look at them and I’m sure we’ll be up for it on Friday.
“Play well in those games it really gives you a good footing to the upcoming games in November. I’ll go through my process and look to come up with a good strategy in terms of scrummaging and forward play and hopefully deliver a good performance on Friday.”
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