'This time last year I was working part-time as a labourer': Aussie's unlikely rise to Scotland squad
Australia’s former Sydney Roosters player Charlie Savala has found himself homing in on a dream of playing rugby union for Scotland against the Wallabies after switching rugby codes and moving to Edinburgh.
The 21-year-old Sydneysider Savala was on Wednesday included in Scotland coach Gregor Townsend’s 36-man training squad, one of four new faces chosen ahead of their autumn international series which will feature a Test against Australia at Murrayfield.
Though it’s still a serious long shot that this novice flyhalf could make his Test debut against the Wallabies on November 7, Savala’s promotion has been meteoric considering he only played his first match for Edinburgh Rugby in March after an injury-disrupted first season.
Savala, who qualifies through his Ayr-born father Scott, switched codes and joined Edinburgh last year after making the move from the Roosters, where he felt he wasn’t getting enough playing time.
A fine sporting allrounder at cricket, basketball and soccer in his youth, Savala focused on both rugby codes and AFL as he progressed through the age grades while growing up in Sydney.
He attended the Scots College where, under the guidance of former Ireland and Australia international Brian Smith, he began to concentrate largely on rugby, ultimately earning selection for New South Wales.
Savala then switched to join the Roosters on a two-year deal in 2018-19 where he was promoted to the senior squad before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet when his opportunities dried up in the pandemic, he was spotted by a Scottish scout after returning briefly to Union with Eastern Suburbs and took the gamble of a new career in Scotland, where he still has strong family links.
Savala has been compared to Scotland’s gifted British and Irish Lions’ flyhalf Finn Russell for his attacking flair, telling the Scotsman newspaper: “I do love the way he plays.
“He’s been the man I’ve looked up to the last couple of years. Going back it would have been Quade Cooper but moving over the years, Finn’s the man.”
In April, Savala told his Edinburgh club website: “It’s been a really rewarding but different experience for myself over the past six months.
“This time last year I was working part-time as a labourer, playing rugby league and fitting my training in during the evenings.
“Moving across the world to chase my dream would have been the last thing on my mind, but I am so grateful I’ve been able to experience this.”
Townsend has also named two South African-born players – flanker Dylan Richardson, who qualifies through his Edinburgh-born father, and prop Pierre Schoeman, who qualifies through residency – in the squad as well as England-born lock Marshall Sykes, who has a Scottish grandmother.
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