It’s been five years since Leroy Houston played rugby in Australia, 11 since he was first involved in a Wallabies environment.
The hard-running backrower is back with a vengeance and former teammate Stephen Hoiles hopes he can deliver on the potential he showed the first time around.
“A long time ago I was in the squad with him when he first came on the scene,” Hoiles said.
“He was 17 at the time, he got taken on a Wallabies Spring Tour in 2005 by Eddie Jones.
“He didn’t get capped but at that age he was such a raw talent.”
Houston is yet to represent the Wallabies despite his talent and representing the Australia U19s and U21s.
The 29-year-old had some time away from the game before spending seasons in France, but a three-year stint with Bath in the English Premiership where he became a cult hero due to his abrasive style of play.
Hoiles believes Houston’s addition to the squad is a smart move by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika ahead of a three-Test series against England.
“Leroy has been playing really good football in Bath and he’s probably at a stage in his life where he’s really mature and settled and has unfinished business,” he said.
“He’s also a type of player that we don’t have too much of.
“He’s in the Toutai Kefu, Cliffy Palu mould so there hasn’t been a huge amount of those big, damaging ball-running backrowers that we’ve had, so I think that’s what the coach likes.”
Cheika seconded those thoughts about Houston, before putting the ball directly in his new recruit’s court.
“(I) just think that profile of the skillful ball playing hard runner, power runner, type guy is something we need to get more of,” he said.
“I think it's the mix - he's got a very good skill set. Now, will he make the step up to Test rugby? That part's up to him.”
Houston could be a secret weapon on or off the field for the Wallabies, with experience playing alongside and against many of the incoming English players, combatting the Australian flavour in the English coaching panel, that includes head coach Eddie Jones and assistant Glen Ella.
“He'd have really good intel and really good experience playing against these English players which is another reason why I think he’s probably found himself in the squad,” Hoiles said.