Ireland players gesture to supporters following the Rugby World Cup...

Ireland players gesture to supporters following the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Ireland and Tonga at the State de la Beaujoire in Nantes, France Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: AP/Thibault Camus

TOURS, France — Only prop Finlay Bealham's availability in the Ireland squad is doubtful for the blockbuster pool match with South Africa at the Rugby World Cup next weekend.

Bealham went in against Tonga as a halftime replacement on Saturday to give tighthead Tadhg Furlong a rest, but he lasted only nine minutes before being removed for a head injury assessment. Furlong returned to see out Ireland's 59-16 win in Nantes.

Bealham was still being assessed when Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt met the media on Sunday.

He said first-choice hooker Dan Sheehan will be available to face the Springboks next Saturday at Stade de France, after spraining a foot ligament four weeks ago in the warmup win over England in Dublin.

“Dan's trained with us the past couple of days. He's looking good,” Catt said. "(Monday training is) going to be very, very light anyway, so he'll be able to do all the walk-throughs. We're pretty confident that he's available for selection come Saturday.

“Injury-wise we're in a good place. Tonga was always going to be a very tough game, a physical game. We've come through that relatively injury free, which is great. Now it's about recovery and preparing ourselves for South Africa.”

England World Cup winner Catt coaches the Irish backs, and he's been impressed by South Africa's willingness and ability to strike out wide.

"Having Manie Libbok at 10, Damian Willemse at 15 and Willie le Roux — they're definitely putting the ball through the hands a little bit more and they're causing big problems for a lot of teams. We're well aware of it, but still you've got to try and stop it.

"South Africa have always been very aggressive in their defense and it's worked very, very well for them. It definitely puts your skillset under pressure and it's something we’ve been working on over the past couple of years.

“A lot more teams are becoming a lot tighter and coming with a lot more line speed. There's still space around, you've just got to find it in different ways.”

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