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Houston thrilled by likely Wallabies debut

Leroy Houston has survived the final cut of the Wallabies bench to play Argentina at Twickenham.
Houston thrilled by likely Wallabies debut
Photo Source: AAP

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Long-time Wallabies outcast Leroy Houston beamed from ear to ear when told by coach Michael Cheika he'd end an 11-year wait for a Test debut which he admits he thought would never come.

The Wallabies will unleash their 11th debutant this season when they take on Argentina at Twickenham, but none have been more special than the bruising forward who survived as Cheika trimmed his bench on Friday and left out Rebels winger Sefa Naivulu.

The specialist No.8 made his first Wallabies tour in 2005 as a bright-eyed 18-year-old but failed to earn a Test cap - with his only green and gold appearance on that tour a non-cap game for Australia A against the French Barbarians.

Houston stayed on and trained with the main team throughout that tour, but teammates barely heard a peep out of him.

"I was just starstruck to be honest," he said.

"I grew up looking up to those type of players, like George Smith, Steve Larkham, Squeak (now captain Stephen Moore) was a bit younger back then.

"To be honest I was really, really shy and I didn't really speak too much but just the whole time in my head (I was saying) 'wow I can't believe I'm with these guys at the moment. I get to train with them and play with them'."

It caps an impressive journey of perseverance for Houston, who since 2011 has been plying his trade throughout Europe and forging a fearsome reputation for English Premiership side Bath in the past four years.

The 29-year-old recently returned to Bath on loan having returned to Australia this year to reignite his chances of a maiden Wallabies cap.

"I can't put it into words (how I feel). Emotions are running high," a jubilant Houston said.

"...I didn't think I'd ever get back into the Wallabies."

On arrival in London this week, having been a late call-up following the ankle injury suffered by Sean McMahon, Houston quickly went about leaving his mark - literally.

He apologised to teammates before their first session, warning them that he wouldn't be holding back and that he was sorry for the bruises he was about to leave.

"(Houston's) an excellent ball player, ball carrier and he puts his heart and soul into it as well," Cheika said earlier this week.

His selection continues a determination from Cheika to blood new talent and broaden the Wallabies' player depth in all positions - as evidenced by the six rookies in the starting side on Saturday night, and 22-year-old props Tom Robertson and Allan Alaalatoa on the bench alongside Houston.

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