Aussie rugby quartet hoping to set Six Nations alight

There's plenty of Australian interest in Europe's Six Nations Championship again after both Ireland and Scotland named their teams for the weekend openers.

Eddie Jones may have departed the European rugby scene - but there'll still be a real Australian flavour to the Six Nations Championship when the tournament kicks off this weekend.

While Jones has left England to rediscover his rugby roots back home as Wallabies coach, four Aussie players who've been plying their trade expertly in Britain and Ireland are out to make an impact on the field.

Because when Ireland and Scotland named their teams on Thursday for the weekend's opening matches, the two squads featured a quartet of Aussies who've qualified to play for their adopted rugby countries through family ties.

The most striking selection was Ireland coach Andy Farrell giving Canberra-born prop forward Finlay Bealham his first-ever Six Nations start at the age of 31 on Saturday in the heat of Cardiff's Principality Stadium furnace.

Bealham, who plays for Irish provincial side Connacht, qualifies for the national team through his Northern Irish grandmother and has already racked up 27 caps.

But 23 of those have come as a replacement, and this time he's being asked to take a big step up by replacing Ireland's injured star man Tadhg Furlong.

After deputising at tighthead and coming off the bench to impress in previous outings, though, Farrell feels he deserves his crack.

"He's playing some outstanding rugby at this moment in time. The last game he played, he scored a hat-trick, he's scrummaging very well, so he deserves a start," said Farrell.

"Finlay's a massive personality within our squad, he's very popular ... his performances have been top-drawer."

The Canberra-Connacht connection has also seen Mack Hansen, whose mum hails from Cork, selected for another cap for Ireland, with the winger looking to repeat his man-of-the-match performance in last year's equivalent fixture against the Welsh.

In the Scottish ranks to face England at Twickenham in the Calcutta Cup, Sione Tuipulotu will start in the centre, winning his 12th cap and hoping to add to his first tries for Scotland notched up in the November win over Argentina.

The 25-year-old Victorian Tuipulotu, a former Australia under-20 international whose Scottish grandmother comes from Greenock, will be joined in the Scotland 23 by his Glasgow Warriors teammate Jack Dempsey, Sydney's ex-Wallabies flanker who'll come off the bench to win his fifth cap.

After his last appearance for Australia at the 2019 World Cup, Dempsey was able to switch allegiance to Scotland, the home of his maternal grandfather, following a three-year Test absence.