Connacht Rugby prop Finlay Bealham starts for Ireland in their Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday after scoring a hat-trick of tries in Round 4 of the EPCR Challenge Cup.

The 31-year-old’s trio of scores proved nothing more than a consolation for Connacht as they went down 35-21 at Newcastle Falcons, but the Irish province had already secured a place in the Round of 16, where they will visit Benetton Rugby on April 1.

Having also dotted down in Connacht’s Round 3 thrashing of CA Brive, Bealham ended the pool stage as one of the EPCR Challenge Cup’s leading try-scorers, with his haul of four only bettered by Scarlets’ Steff Evans (5).

Wing Mack Hansen – another Connacht player who had a stellar end to the EPCR Challenge Cup pool stage – starts for Ireland at the Principality Stadium.

The 24-year-old only featured in Round 3 and 4 but is still among the competition’s leading players when it comes to carries (37), metres made (302) and defenders beaten (10).

Centre Bundee Aki, who has played just once so far in the EPCR Challenge Cup, is a third Connacht representative in the Ireland squad as he takes a place on the bench.