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Flanker Leroy Houston had given up hope of playing for Australia

Published 07/10/2016

Leroy Houston, pictured, is in line for his Test rugby debut on Saturday, some 11 years after last featuring for Australia
Leroy Houston, pictured, is in line for his Test rugby debut on Saturday, some 11 years after last featuring for Australia

Leroy Houston cannot quite believe he could make his Australia Test debut on Saturday - almost 11 years after the last time he represented the Wallabies.

Bath favourite Houston thought his chances of international rugby had deserted him, before winning a seat on Australia's bench for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with Argentina at Twickenham.

The 29-year-old last wore his country's green and gold when Australia A thrashed the French Barbarians 42-12 in Bordeaux in November 2005.

Three standout years at Bath have put Houston back on the Wallabies' radar, with the bullish flanker joining the Queensland Reds for next season.

Asked if he ever gave up hope on his Australia dream, Houston said: "Yeah of course. I was just playing rugby - I didn't think I'd ever get back into the Wallabies.

"But the chance has come around and I'm very happy to take it. I can't put it into words, emotions are running high.

"Now the thing is to try to keep calm and just prepare the right mental space to play against the Pumas.

"Knock on wood I'll be able to come off the bench and hopefully get that debut. I didn't think I'd be involved at all this year."

Then-Australia boss Eddie Jones took an extended Wallabies squad on the 2005 Europe tour in bid to boost long-term resources.

Houston impressed against the French Barbarians, but was unable to force his way into the Wallabies set-up in the long-run.

Stints in France and then with Bath have forced another step towards the Test arena however, with Houston itching for the chance to grace the Twickenham field this weekend.

Houston left Bath at the end of last term only to return on a loan deal that expires at the end of the month. The likeable loose-forward admitted he has been relieved to end his time at The Recreation Ground on favourable terms.

"Back in 2005 I was just star-struck to be honest, looking up to players like Stephen Larkham and George Smith.

"I was really, really shy. I didn't speak too much because I couldn't believe I was with those guys, getting to train and play with them.

"The last time I was at Twickenham with the Wallabies I was a spectator, on that 2005 tour. The English anthem gave me goosebumps.

"I love Bath, the supporters there are great. So it's been emotional; going back there was awesome.

"This time I get to say goodbye,and also look to the future and playing for the Reds. I wanted to give back to the supporters.

"I left on short-notice with them, and they are such a great supporting base that I felt like I left on a bit of a bad note.

"They gave me the opportunity to come back until the end of October and finish up hopefully on a high note."

Stephen Moore was a substitute in that powerful 2005 victory over the French Barbarians the last time Houston graced a Wallabies shirt.

Australia's current captain hailed Houston's 11-year odyssey as proof it is never too late to force a Test debut.

"I remember Leroy had a really strong game against the French Barbarians, and that was my first Wallabies tour," said Moore.

"It's amazing to see that after all that time he now gets his chance for a possible Wallabies debut.

"He's taken the chance to play club rugby in the northern hemisphere and been able to prove his quality.

"Of course he's coming back to play at the Reds next year but it's a good indication that no matter what you do there can always be an opportunity if you want it."

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