Finlay Bealham described James Lowe as "an incredible player" with huge qualities, in response to criticism of the Leinster wing from former England international Chris Ashton.

Ashton, speaking on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast, said Lowe should have done more to prevent Jonny May from scoring his spectacular solo try during England's 18-7 win at Twickenham last Saturday.

"Jonny's was a really good try... he managed to outsprint seven players across the pitch," said Ashton.

"That probably says something about the (Ireland) team.

"Where was James Lowe? He's dragging a dresser back there. He’s too big. He’s like a tractor, mate, turning. I watched him during the game. He's too big, too heavy, too slow."

Ashton later tweeted: "My comment was to do with Jonny May's try ONLY and not James Lowe as a rugby player. He is a outstanding player and will play for Ireland for many years to come." 

Bealham was quick to shrug off the initial analysis regardless, saying: "James is a serious athlete. I was actually saying it to one of the boys, the worst people one-on-one are James Lowe and Bundee Aki because they can do you for speed, but they can run over the top of you as well.

"James is an incredible player. He's got some serious attributes. I wouldn't really pay any attention to what (Ashton) said. I know James really well. He's a class act".

Bealham sustained a bad injury back in February that halted his season but the lockdown allowed him to completely focus on his rehab. Now, the Connacht prop is feeling in peak condition.

The 29-year-old replaced Cian Healy in the 65th minute last weekend and is ready to seize any more opportunities that come his way. 

"At the start of lockdown I was injured, I fractured my ankle and did the ligaments," he said.

"A lot of my attention went into the rehab, trying to get myself back on my feet to get moving and running to get myself back to full fitness.

"I suppose lockdown came at a good time for me personally. I was able to give all my attention to my previous injury and I'm flying fit now, thankfully.

"I'm loving it, really enjoying playing under all the coaches and with all the lads as well. Whatever minutes I get, I just know I've got to take my chance when I get it." 

Bealham should indeed get another chance to stake his claim on Sunday when Georgia come to town for Ireland's final game of Group A, though he was keen to talk up the challenge at hand.

"Georgia have always had a really strong setpiece and some really big forwards. We know that's going to be a huge area at the weekend. It's an opportunity as well to go up against a quality pack and really test ourselves. 

"They have some explosive backs who have size as well. They've been playing some good rugby. I know results haven't gone their way but we're under no illusions – it's going to be a tough game. 

"I've made a lot of mistakes and I've learned from them. You're always learning and I'm just delighted to be here. I feel like I'm coming into my prime and that I can contribute to this team.

"Every time I get an opportunity, regardless if it's 15 minutes off the bench or if it's a start, I'm not going to count my minutes – I'm going to make my minutes count.

"If I get the opportunity again, I'm going to go hard and do my best for the team."

Follow Ireland v Georgia this Sunday via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ One from 1.40pm, or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport