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I will never forget my Ireland debut says Finlay Bealham

By Jonathan Bradley

While the debut of prop Finlay Bealham from the bench against Italy on Saturday was cheered throughout Connacht, it was a first cap that will have been well received in certain pockets of Co Fermanagh too.

The Australian, who can cover both sides of the scrum and came on at loosehead at the Aviva, is Irish qualified through an Enniskillen grandmother and pitched up in Ulster when he first came to these shores as an 18-year-old.

Having turned out for Belfast Harlequins, he was offered a place in the Connacht academy after a handful of under-20 appearances on the representative stage and, six years on, has become the latest international to be taken from Pat Lam's Pro12 table-toppers.

Coming into the panel at the last minute after a post-team selection injury to Cian Healy, Bealham wanted to appreciate every second of the rollercoaster weekend. "A few lads were saying take it all in, (not to) to let the moment get the better of me," he said. "It was something that I will remember forever."

Bealham's arrival in the 66th minute - coming after Robbie Henshaw started and Nathan White, Kieran Marmion and Ultan Dillane had all been sprung from the bench - saw Connacht finish the game with a quintet of representation, a situation the 24-year-old admits the province could hardly have believed in the recent past.

"If you told me (at the start of the season) that five of us would be playing a Six Nations game against Italy I don't know what I would have told you," he said.

As Ulster's current prop, and Bealham's former clubmate at Deramore Park, Ricky Lutton said on social media, it was a long way from Belfast Harlequins seconds.

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