The Roar
The Roar


Hair braids and alter egos: Meet the other Aussie who can deliver Ireland a historic RWC and take down the ABS

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13th October, 2023
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PARIS – Before every match, Australian-born Irish prop Finlay Bealham has his hair braided.


Bealham won’t say it, but the 32-year-old pictures himself as a Viking and that’s how he gets himself mentally prepared for battle.

So every week, the Canberra-born prop, who will come off the bench against the All Blacks in Ireland’s biggest-ever Test match at the Stade de France on Saturday, does his homework, goes to a hair salon and switches off while others go to work on his long locks.

“Every trip I have to do a bit of research which usually involves Google, ‘Who does hair braids near me?’ and send a few feelers out,” Bealham said.

“It’s a bit harder in France because I don’t speak French particularly great. I often find their Instagram and then go to Google Translate, English to French, ‘Hello can you braid my hair at such a time?’ Copy and paste the French so when they reply I see what that means.

“I wish Johnny (Sexton) could do it for me. When I come in they probably think I speak brilliant French because I’ve been writing all this stuff.


“They do a good job here so it’s about 45 or 50 minutes. I actually fell asleep during the week, it was nice. I was having a dream and I felt someone pulling the back of my hair and I woke up and the lady was like ‘Good sleep?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, yeah’.”

Finlay Bealham of Ireland looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Ireland and Tonga at Stade de la Beaujoire on September 16, 2023 in Nantes, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Bealham, who has a number of alter egos including playing a WWE character that once appeared on YouTube, is someone with a wicked sense of humour and considered as a real gentleman of Irish rugby.

The prop is the other Australian in Ireland’s formidable side that has shown no signs of falling off a cliff like it did four years ago against the All Blacks.

Of course, the story of Mack Hansen’s defection from Canberra to Connacht and his rapid rise to stardom saw the spotlight turn on Rugby Australia’s talent identification.

While he is a case of the one that got away, the Brumbies did in fact offer Hansen a contact and wanted the elusive winger to stay put.

But the heart wanted to see more than the nation’s capital and off Hansen, an under-20s Junior Wallabies star, left for Andy Friend’s then-coached Connacht side.


There he met another Canberran, Bealham, who was a St Edmund’s College graduate and was in fact given his ACT Schoolboys jersey by Friend in the late noughties.

Unlike Hansen though, Bealham didn’t always grow up wanting to play for the Wallabies.

“To be honest, from as young as I can remember, I always wanted to play professional rugby,” he said.

“I remember watching the British and Irish Lions, my dad’s English and mum’s side is Irish, and dad would always be cheering for the British and Irish Lions when they came to Australia back in the day and so was I.

“I always had a tie to the northern hemisphere, so to be representing Ireland now is a dream come true.”

Finlay Bealham charges forward against the All Blacks in their second Test win at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 09, 2022 in Dunedin. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Bealham can barely believe the path that has led him to the Stade de France, having first moved to Ulster as a teenager before moving to Ireland’s west.


Now he has emerged over the past couple of years as a constant figure in Andy Farrell’s side, with the tight-head prop one of the most improved figures in Irish rugby and someone more than capable of coming on for Tadhg Furlong.

“The journey’s been crazy,” he said.

“I left Australia at 18-19 years of age and if you said fast-forward 12 years later that I’d be going into a quarter-final [for Ireland] I wouldn’t believe it. I’m incredibly lucky for everything and really thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way.”

Perhaps it was the “poor weather”, but Bealham took the Galway like a duck to water.

“I don’t think it rains as much in Canberra as it does in Galway, but certainly the cold is very similar,” he said. “I was well accustomed to the poor weather when I moved over.”

Bealham’s parents, who have moved to the Gold Coast to escape the “crap” winters and are now “living the good life”, have arrived in Paris to watch Ireland’s Test against the All Blacks.


He is also fiercely proud to represent his wife’s family for the Irish side.

“My mum’s side of the family is all Irish, so to represent them at this level, I’m tremendously proud of that,” he said.

“On top of that, my wife’s from Galway and they’re a big Galway family. So whenever I get to pull on the green jersey of Ireland I’m incredibly proud of them and I always think of them when we’re singing the anthem. It’s great to have them here.”

Wallabies back Tom Wright is tackled by Finlay Bealham at Aviva Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Dublin. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Not only is Ireland out to end their quarter-final hoodoo against the All Blacks but Farrell’s men can equal the world record of 18 consecutive Test wins if they edge the three-time world champions.

“It’s a step-up again, quarter-finals rugby,” Bealham said.

“It’s going to be tough. We know what New Zealand bring, it’s really exciting and we certainly have a lot to tidy up on.


“Look, there’s just certain little things, small little details in defence and attack that we can sharpen up on. Some of the really positive stuff is that we fight really hard for each other and we try to make the guy next to us look a million dollars.”