Charlie Savala swaps Sydney for Scotland and rugby league convert is backed to succeed at Edinburgh
He grew up close to the beach in Sydney so the Scottish weather has been a bit of a culture shock for Edinburgh stand-off Charlie Savala, particularly during the dark winter days of lockdown.
As well as being 10,000 miles from home, the 21-year-old had to contend with having his cheekbone broken by a team-mate in a training ground accident and a string of minor injuries.
But the former rugby league player, who is Scottish qualified thanks to his dad from Ayr, has remained upbeat and is set to feature against Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield on Saturday night. His coach, Richard Cockerill, has high hopes for him.
“He has a good personality and is sharp with ball in hand and he is a typical Australian in that he is very confident in himself,” said Cockerill.
“He hasn’t played a lot of rugby union in the last two years. He has played a lot of rugby league, and he has some real talent and ability but he is still learning his craft as a fly-half.
“It is good to see we have a Scottish qualified man who has a real spark about his personality and he will be involved at the weekend.”
Savala’s Scottish roots run deep. He attended the prestigious Scots College in Sydney where he was schooled in rugby union by Brian Smith, the respected former Ireland and Australia international.
His father, Scott, is a big sporting influence and had a spell playing for Ayr United’s youth team before emigrating.
“Dad grew up in Ayr, and has a strong thick Scottish accent which he hasn’t lost,” said Savala. “He played football, rugby everything and moved out to Oz when he was 19.
“I was lucky enough to go to the Scots College and played a couple of years in the first XV under Brian Smith who was coach at London Irish and attack coach with England. It was awesome. We used to walk out to Scotland the Brave and wear kilts to the games and sing Flower of Scotland when we won.”
After leaving school, he was picked up by the Sydney Roosters rugby league side but things fizzled out when the pandemic struck. A return to union with Eastern Suburbs led to him being spotted by a Scottish scout and he ended up on the plane to Edinburgh.
He made his debut against Cardiff Blues in March and is determined to kick on after recovering from injury.
“Playing pro rugby was my massive goal,” he said. “For the opportunity to pop up so quickly was just awesome, being in this environment with internationals and British and Irish Lions now and adding my bit of spark coming from a different code and a different country.”
And the weather?
“Mate, I grew up by the beach, and the social part of my life has been huge so to make the switch so quickly it has taken a couple of months for it to sink in.
“Pierre [Schoeman] broke my cheekbone a couple of weeks in so it made the transition a little bit harder. But I have made some good friends here and it has been awesome to feel loved at the club. Without them I don’t know what I would be doing as it is a weird time.”