Edinburgh back Charlie Savala to bring Aussie confidence to stand-off role against Glasgow Warriors
Savala impressed after coming on for Kinghorn in the 13th minute of Edinburgh’s Champions Cup win over Castres last weekend and gets the nod for the 1872 Cup first leg at Scotstoun ahead of Jaco van der Walt who is among the replacements. Kinghorn suffered a back spasm against the French side and has been unable to train this week.
Australian-born but Scottish-qualified, Savala has been used sparingly since joining Edinburgh in October 2020 from the rugby league side Sydney Roosters but has not been cowed by the big occasions. He scored a try against Castres on Saturday and also started in the away win over Saracens in the Challenge Cup last season.
“Charlie has developed a huge amount over the last 18 months,” said Blair. “He is leading our attack well, his understanding of momentum is much improved and he did well when he came on against Castres early in a high pressure game. His instinct is really good and these are things you can’t coach and we have seen a lot of growth in the last 18 months, even more so this season. It is a position that can take a bit of bedding down time but we believe he is heading in the right direction.
“He backs himself and is very confident in his own ability. You get that coming through the Australian environment, that confidence. It is something that is really important, particularly for someone playing at ten.”
Blair contrasted the Aussie attitude with that of certain Scots and admitted the latter could sometimes be found wanting.
“There is definitely a rhetoric around Scottish sport with the way things are perceived,” said the Edinburgh coach. “People talk about glorious failure. This undertone has been created, whereas the Australians and the English have a real confidence about what they are doing and they believe they are the best.
“I do believe, growing up in Scottish rugby, people like to talk about the failures but we don’t talk too much about the successes we’ve had. Our job is to build the players up and for them to trust they’ve got the talent.
“What we’ve got to do is keep pushing that we can be the best. We’ve talked about championship-winning behaviours - what behaviours do we need to show off the pitch and on the pitch to allow us to contend for the championship.”
A win at Scotstoun would certainly be a step in the right direction. No team has won there in the United Rugby Championship since Leinster in October 2022. Edinburgh’s cause has been boosted by the return of Duhan van der Merwe who has recovered from the ankle injury which caused him to miss the Castres game. He replaces Damien Hoyland on the wing. Matt Currie drops out after picking up a knock against Castres and Chris Dean comes in at inside centre, with James Lang moving to 13.
Up front, Tom Cruse makes his first Edinburgh start at hooker in place of Stuart McInally who failed a head injury assessment in the Castres game, and Connor Boyle replaces Luke Crosbie in the back row.
Edinburgh (v Glasgow Warriors, URC, Scotstoun, Friday, 7.35pm): Emiliano Boffelli; Wes Goosen, James Lang, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Charlie Savala, Ben Vellacott; Pierre Schoeman, Tom Cruse, WP Nel, Glen Young, Grant Gilchrist (cc) Jamie Ritchie (cc), Connor Boyle, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Patrick Harrison, Boan Venter, Angus Williams, Marshall Sykes, Ben Muncaster, Henry Pyrgos, Jaco van der Walt, Cammy Scott.
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