Bealham in for Healy on Ireland bench

Finlay Bealham could make his Ireland debut against Italy on Saturday

Finlay Bealham could make his Ireland debut against Italy on Saturday

Finlay Bealham is in line to make his Ireland debut against Italy on Saturday after being called up to replace prop Cian Healy on the replacements’ bench.

The uncapped Connacht front-rower, 24, was called into Joe Schmidt’s match-day squad on Friday after Healy withdrew because of a “mild hamstring strain”.

Healy suffered the injury in training on Thursday and then underwent scans.

Canberra-born Bealham qualifies for Ireland through his grandmother, who hails from Enniskillen.

Leinster loosehead Healy missed the opening Six Nations games against Wales and France after undergoing knee surgery.

He came on as a replacement for the final stages of the defeat by England and has not yet been ruled out of the final Six Nations clash against Scotland on 19 March.

Bealham has played four times for Ireland Under-20s and twice for the Emerging Ireland side.

“It’s a great opportunity for Finlay to get a taste of Test match rugby,” said Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby.

“He’s impressed everyone, he’s got down to his hard work, stuck at his job and now he’s got an opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level.”

Ireland are chasing their first win of the tournament in the Dublin clash with the Italians.

Simon Zebo was named at full-back in Schmidt’s starting team for the match at the Aviva Stadium, with regular number 15 Rob Kearney ruled out through injury.

Ulster’s Jared Payne returns to partner Robbie Henshaw in midfield after missing the loss at Twickenham two weeks ago with a hamstring problem.

Despite impressing against England, Stuart McCloskey misses out, with Fergus McFadden’s ability to cover centre and wing earning him a place on the bench.

Ireland have won 21 of their 25 test meetings against Italy and the Azzurri’s only win in Dublin was their 37-29 victory at the old Lansdowne Road in January 1997.

Ireland: Simon Zebo; Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (capt), Mike Ross; Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Finlay Bealham, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.

Italy: David Odiete; Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Garcia, Mattia Bellini; Edoardo Padovani, Guglielmo Palazzani; Andrea Lovotti, Davide Giazzon, Lorenzo Cittadini; George Biagi, Marco Fuser; Francesco Minton, Alessandro Zanni, Sergio Parisse (capt).

Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Matteo Zanusso, Dario Chistolini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Abraham Steyn, Alberto Lucchese, Kelly Haimona, Luke McLean


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