"I'd like to think the boys respect what I've done, and the fact I've worked for it "
INDOMITABLE work ethic helped Tom Savage swap painting a Hartpury College bar for the Gloucester club captaincy.
But that now-famed drive was born on two wheels, not the rugby field.
The 24-year-old only caught the rugby bug after England's World Cup triumph in 2003.
The combative back-five forward marvelled at Mike Tindall and Co as they dispatched all-comers in Australia ten years ago.
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Now he is team-mates with the accomplished 34-year-old centre.
But if his Bishop's Castle Community College mates hadn't formed the school's first rugby team, he may never have taken up the sport.
That's because up until the age of 14 Savage could be found every night riding the Shropshire streets with older brother Ben and father Fred.
Savage's dad grew up riding motorbikes, but ushered his sons into cycling.
While Tom diverted towards rugby, Ben kept on pounding the pedals – and is now one of the world's leading competitors in extreme sport Cyclocross.
"My dad's always been interested in motorbikes and things like that, so he was into moto trials," explained Gloucester's new captain.
"It's all about jumps, skills and tricks.
"From a young age he wanted to get us into that but probably wondered about the safety, so we spent a lot of time on push bikes as kids.
"And now my brother is doing very well.
"It's exactly the same as with the motorbikes, in and over rocks and over tricky terrain.
"You've got to do two laps of the course, and the quickest time wins.
"Some of the things they are jumping off and the gaps they are crossing, it's a pretty extreme sport and you've got to be pretty accurate and brave to do it.
"Ben's been British champion every year since he was about 11, he was the youngest rider to get to the highest category.
"He's been junior world champion and this year he came third in the senior world competition, and that was with a struggle through injury as well."
Three years ago Savage was a student at Hartpury, making tracks in college rugby.
Unknown beyond college confines, he nagged and nagged then-Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath to train with the Kingsholm first team.
Eventually Redpath relented, Savage secured a summer painting job at the college, and proved himself a physical presence in Gloucester's pre-season training.
He might have fought his way to the captain's armband, but Savage admits he still gets grief from his team-mates for that remarkable rise.
He continued: "We'd get home from school and Dad would have the bikes out and we'd be out for a few hours a night.
"We've always been competitive guys and we always had it in us to work hard.
"Once we get hooked at something there's no stopping us.
"Ben was put into a very competitive situation from a very young age, going abroad to world championships. That was an eye-opener for me on how tough it is to succeed at the highest level, whatever you do.
"My dad was brilliant support, taking us to any sporting events we had going on, pushing us but also making sure we were enjoying it all.
"He's brilliant, he's down at Gloucester every week and I think he really enjoys it all.
"Some of the boys have a bit of banter with me about my 'story'.
"But I'd like to think they respect what I've done, and the fact I've worked for it.
"For me I'm certainly proud and happy to be where I am.
"It was an unknown quantity at the time, I just had to keep pushing week on week at that point.
"Luckily I got an opportunity and was able to take it.
"Now I've got to build on that in taking on the captaincy.
"Any chance you get you've just got to grab, so many boys fall by the wayside, so you've just got to seize anything that comes your way."
Keen to seek leadership advice from all corners, Savage is buoyed by the experience around him.
He added: "Guys like Pete Buxton and Alex Brown now on the coaching staff, they will be a big help.
"I can go and sit down with them and ask anything I need to.
"It's great to have that in and around me, allied to the experience we've got in the team.
"I think I always try to lead by example, to set the standard, that's either in you or not."