Ireland prop Finlay Bealham is determined to “make the minutes count” as he prepares for a crucial showdown with Scotland following a frustrating start to his maiden Rugby World Cup.
Australia-born Bealham made his first meaningful contribution of the competition by coming off the bench to help secure a statement 13-8 victory over defending champions South Africa in round three.
He had been left out of the matchday 23 for his country’s opener against Romania and was then forced off by a head knock just 10 minutes into a second-half cameo the following week against Tonga.
Bealham, who showed his quality with some fine performances in this year’s Six Nations Grand Slam triumph, has won most of his 34 Test caps as a replacement and is understudy to first-choice tighthead Tadhg Furlong.
But the 31-year-old is ready and raring to go when called upon as Andy Farrell’s men attempt to avoid a shock early exit at the hands of the Scots.
“From a mindset point of view, when I’m on the bench, I don’t care how many minutes I play,” said Bealham.
“It’s ‘make the minutes count’. I try my best to do that.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) October 2, 2023
“Personally it was a frustrating start to the campaign but some of that stuff was out of my control.
“When I got my chance, I just tried to come on and make a positive impact. It was incredible to get that experience.
“I’m looking forward to the Scotland game.
“Obviously there’s no team been named yet and it’s just about focusing on what I can control, fixing up things from the South Africa game and then bringing my game on top of that.”
Three successive Pool B wins have put the world’s top-ranked nation on the cusp of the quarter-finals.
Yet Ireland’s progression is far from assured going into Saturday evening’s pivotal Paris appointment.
The Connacht player is eager to extend the “surreal” experience of playing on the world’s biggest stage and continue representing his late Irish grandmother, whom he thinks about when singing Ireland’s Call.
“I moved over originally when I was 18, 19 years of age having a dream of playing professional rugby and I moved over because the dream seemed a bit harder where I was in Australia,” said Canberra-born Bealham.
“I had that Irish heritage through my mum’s side of the family.
“I was really tight with my nana at the time. She used to ring me every day when I was in Galway and I remember one time I forgot to bring my phone to training and she ended up calling me like 70 times, it was something crazy, you wouldn’t believe it.
“I suppose to represent my nana, who I was always close with growing up, representing all them, would I have thought I’d be here a good few years later at a World Cup? It’s pretty surreal.
“Every time I get to wear the jersey, every time I sing the anthem, I always think of my family and everyone who sacrificed for me to get to where I’m at.”