Connacht prop Finlay Bealham is hopeful an impressive series of performances over the festive period will see him included in the Ireland squad for the Six Nations.
The 27-year old ended an 18-month exile from the national squad when Joe Schmidt drafted him in for the November series and games against Italy and the USA has taken his international caps to nine.
He hadn’t featured for Ireland since playing against Japan in the summer tour of 2017 and now the Australian-born tighthead is keen for more.
“It was about 18 months since I was last involved in the Ireland squad. It was a great experience for me to get back in the squad and to get two games over that November period. I thoroughly enjoyed the four weeks working with all of the coaches and players and I learned a lot.
“There are some big games coming up now and hopefully I can find a bit of form and put myself in the conversation for the Six Nations selection.
“It was a good November series. To be a part of all of that even though I didn’t play Argentina or New Zealand, to watch the way the lads fronted up in both of those games and delivered the game plans and stuff that I had seen on the pitch during the week, to see that come to fruition on game day was really good,” he said.
Bealham’s immediate priority is performing for Connacht, starting with the back-to-back Challenge Cup clashes with Perpignan and then heading into three festive derby encounters which present a great opportunity to stake a claim in Schmidt’s plans for his final Six Nations campaign.
Bealham was delighted to get back into the Irish set-up and, inevitably, it took a bit of adjusting after being out of the international scene for a year and a half.
“There were a good few new things, as you would expect after 18 months, it definitely wasn’t going to be the same.
“I was working closely with all of the other tightheads and just making sure we were all on the right page. You are transitioning from all of the Connacht calls to different calls in the Ireland set-up. You learn on the go a bit. I was doing a lot of homework making sure I was comfortable with everything. There is a bit of a transition. But at that level you just have to know your stuff inside out.”
A key factor in Bealham’s improved displays has centred around having his body in peak condition.
“A few years ago we focused on the body weight and stuff like that. I got pretty heavy and felt that in games I was quite lethargic.
“I wasn’t as dynamic as I would like to be because I was carrying excess fat. Since then I have leaned up a lot taking about five to six kilos off.
“I feel like I can contribute more to the team. That is probably one of the big things that I have worked on that lifestyle, leaning out a bit and being more dynamic and having a bigger impact on the pitch,” he added.