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Finlay Bealham On The Irish Camp, Being An Impact Sub And Wrestling Fandom

Finlay Bealham On The Irish Camp, Being An Impact Sub And Wrestling Fandom
By Jonathan Byrne

Connacht prop Finlay Bealham is one of many Irish players looking to put that evening in Paris behind two weekends ago.

The Aussie-born tighthead was brought on in the dying minutes of the game, but Ireland's efforts late on weren't enough to get the better of a game French outfit.

They'll be looking ahead to Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday. Bealham spoke to Stephen Murphy and Jonathan West on the Master of None Podcast about the loss.

"There was a lot of chat before that, obviously France are at home and they're in really good form at the moment after beating the All Blacks in the last Autumn series," he said.

"We knew it was going to be a really tough game. Everyone is bitterly disappointed but I think there's a lot of positives to take out of that."

Bealham Making An Impact

Having adjusted to a reserve role under Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, Bealham remarked that it's something he's not that used to when playing club rugby for Connacht.

Nonetheless, he says it doesn't diminish his role in the team coming off the bench, especially in tight games such as the match in Stade de France where things could be hanging in the balance.

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"One of the advantages, when you're watching from the bench, you can kind of see the game and see what's working well and kind of get an idea of how it's going," he said.

"So when you come on you have an idea of how you can implement yourself in the game from a defense or attack or forward point of view as well."

"I heard the saying a long time ago that it was not to count your minutes but to make your minutes count. Especially coming from the bench for me that's something massive."

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Connacht and Ireland Similarities

Bealham says there's a good atmosphere in the Irish camp, despite the loss, and that there's no real evidence of any divide between players of different provinces.

"(Building) connections especially being a front-row forward like that, connections with your locks, the props, and the hooker. Even up there all the lads from each province they're all hanging out."

"Everyone's going for coffees, there's a really good connection there whether they are from Leinster or Munster or Ulster. Everyone gets on brilliant. It's just a really enjoyable environment."

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Bealham qualified for Ireland through an Irish grandmother, who hails from Enniskillen in Fermanagh. He's enjoying his eighth season in Connacht colours earning over 16o caps in the process.

He's been integral in their Champions Cup and United Rugby Championship campaigns this season. But he thinks he's helped by some similarities in the way Ireland and Connacht set up.

"There are definitely similarities, for sure, with the way both teams play. Which I suppose maybe has made the transition for me going up there feel a bit smoother," he said.

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"I've been really enjoying the way we have played at Connacht this year, without giving too much away, how we've been more direct and the tight line style that we play."

"It's an enjoyable brand of rugby playing for both of them. I feel like the way the two teams play, I can get my hands on the ball and I can get involved a lot more which is brilliant."

The Lighter Side

When it comes to the Irish camp, Bealham says there is one thing that brings them together, whether the players want to admit it or not, and that's a love for wrestling.

He says his WWE fandom started from a young age, and while he's not able to keep up with it as much now, he shares a love for it reminiscing on his childhood days with others.

"Jack Carty had this like gag that he'd do in camp the whole time. He'd just play all these wrestling music things on Spotify," Bealham explained.

"He'd play all these old wrestling songs and it was like his gag that I would guess all the songs within like three or four seconds. I don't know if that's something to be proud of or I'm incredibly sad."

"I was in the car with Pete O'Mahony from Munster the last day. I was playing all the wrestling tunes for him. He's a big wrestling fan as well. I know that they're out there, they're just a bit shy."

Bealham talked about his preparation for a game and how he's gotten it more fine-tuned as he's got older with age. The key is to not stress too much the night before a game.

In order to shut off from the world, he says he plays PlayStation, as does a number of the Irish players. That and going for walks are important distractions.

"You end up playing the game five times before Saturday evening. By the time Saturday evening comes you're exhausted. I kind of see myself as giving myself time to charge and allow myself time to relax."

"If I'm at home I'd probably jump on Call of Duty or Fortnite and just give myself a couple of hours to wind down and not feel guilty about it. Knowing when's the time to switch in and go over my notes."

"There's a good few of the boys that jump online and you have a bit of craic. It's often funny when we won a game and all the kills come up at the end," he continued.

"Maybe someone like Abraham (Papali'i) and JP (John Porch) has zero kills and everyone has a good laugh at that. I'd be fond of night gaming."

Working With Teammates

One thing Bealham has enjoyed about this current Six Nations campaign is seeing the rise of fellow clubman Mack Hansen, another Aussie-born Irish standout.

Bealham recalls the first time he lined out for the province, and how he thought there was something special about him right from the get-go.

"At the start of the season for Connacht .. he tore it up man. He was class. You saw that and saw how he kind of conducted himself in training and saw that glimpse of him," he said.

"You thought, this lad is something special. I'll always remember the first game of the season against the Bulls when he had that magnificent try."

"Just basically confirmed what everyone was thinking that this lad has got something special. He's started the last two games .. it's been unreal seeing that progression in him."

Then there's the small case of training with some of the best props in the world in Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Porter, something Bealham doesn't take for granted.

"We've had a lot of scrum sessions and I think the scrum sessions up there have been really top class. There's a lot of competition. You have to get everything right."

"If one pack doesn't get something right, the other pack is just going to get done. It's been really enjoyable scrummaging with those boys and working with them on the pitch."

As the Six Nations campaign progresses, Bealham will be hoping to enjoy more game time. Sunday's welcome of Italy should hopefully provide that.

But for now, the 30-year-old is enjoying his rugby for his province and for his country, and he's happy to be part of a camp that's building towards something big.

"The atmosphere and the buzz in camp on and off the pitch it's something that I haven't experienced throughout my years being up there."

"There's a really tight-knit group of lads and the coaches and players alike. There's definitely something building and obviously, there's still a lot to work on from the weekend."

"Everyone's trying to be the best teammate that they can to make the guy next to them look good. It's an incredible atmosphere up there at the moment. We're certainly building really nicely."

See Also: Aviva Named Second Last In Six Nations Stadiums Ranking

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