But that was a possibility for Sam Thomson, who was forging a new life on Sydney’s northern beaches and impressing on the Aussie club scene before Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill moved to bring the 25-year-old Edinburgh-born Glasgow-educated lock home at the start of the season.
Thomson has certainly seen a fair bit of the world in his young life, in England during his time at the University of Worcester, a spell at the Perpignan Academy in France and a stint in New Zealand before playing just one league match for Glasgow Warriors in 2016 after coming through the academy system. After suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, Thomson, like many a young Scot, opted for a fresh adventure Down Under.
His career blossomed with the Warringah club, who count a certain Gregor Townsend as one of their former players.
“I was actually pushing for a Super Rugby contract and the chat was that as of March I would be Aussie qualified on (residency),” he said. “I spent pre-season last year with the [ACT] Brumbies, was in talks with [New South Wales] Waratahs. That was my whole aim. I wanted to stay out there.
“That was my whole life and then this came up and it was an opportunity to move close to home and it was something I’d regret if I said no. I’ve got a year’s contract to prove I can do it and see what happens.” On announcing the signing back in September, Cockerill, pictured, said: “We’ve obviously lost a large number of our pack to the World Cup, so we’re keen to see Sam hit the ground running and make an impact from the get-go. He’s a lock who possesses both size and skill and we’re excited to see how that skill-set develops further.”
Speaking as Edinburgh prepare for tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup tie at Wasps, Thomson added: “It was a decision I had to make quickly and I’ve no regrets at all so far.
“This weekend will be my sixth game out of ten and considering it’s my first year I’m really happy with that. Ideally I want even more game time, and I get a start this weekend so I really want to take that opportunity and push my case. At the end of the day it’s how you perform on the pitch that gets you picked next week. For me, it’s a case of consistency and my knowledge and making sure I nail my role, and then show what I can do and express myself.”
Edinburgh were forced indoors this week to train at the Oriam centre as the December weather bit hard, and, despite growing up here, the former Kelvinside Academy pupil said with a wry smile: “It is cold. It’s definitely been a bit of a lifestyle change I’m working on getting used to, but my focus has been purely on the pitch so I’ve got to find that balance, deal with my lifestyle back here especially if it’s going to be longer term.
“In terms of getting back into a full-time environment it’s been awesome. I’ve seen so many gains in the gym and in my game, it’s just making sure I’m up to speed and consistent whenever I get the opportunity.
“[In Sydney] I’d be finishing training and go to the beach for a swim or a coffee. If it rained, the pitch would be closed and we’d train indoors.
“I said to some of the boys I hadn’t played in the rain for ages and every game I’ve played since I got back there’s been a downpour. It’s a different sort of way of playing, you have to be a lot more switched on in terms of you can’t try those 50-50s. It’s almost as if your skill level has to change.”
Thomson admits it has been a nomadic start to his rugby career but that he now aims to make the most of being given a chance back in the Scottish system after also gaining representative experience in Australia for Sydney Rays and the NSW Country Eagles.
“I’ve kind of been all over since I finished Uni,” he said. “I spent six months in New Zealand. Went to the south of France for a year with Perpignan and then got the chance to come back to Glasgow, got a game for them then injured my shoulder. Gregor [Townsend] was in charge then, it was his last season. I made the decision to get an early release and went out to Australia to play Shute Shield with Warringah.
“I never intended to stay that long but I ended up loving it and we won the [Shute Shield] comp that year. I’d just finished my third season playing with them and there was an opportunity to come back here. It came out of nowhere and I jumped at it.
“An agent got in touch with me and mentioned Edinburgh were interested. I hadn’t really seen coming back as an option because I figured I was out of the picture but then they got in touch and within a couple of days I spoke to Cockers. He explained he wanted me back over and there was an opportunity there. Within a few days I sorted it, signed and a week later I was back and straight into things.
“I had put some highlights together and sent them off. I knew [Scotland assistant coach] Matt Taylor from my time at Glasgow and he said he passed them around so, yeah, he jokes that he’s now my agent.”