On the verge of an overseas move and seemingly overtaken in the national pecking order, Rob Horne believed his last Wallabies Test may have been and gone.
The utility back last played for the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe last August, with a shoulder injury ending his year in that game, before signing a three-year deal with Premiership side Northampton.
It was a move that put an endpoint on his Australian rugby career, even before Horne and all the other overseas-bound players were overlooked by Michael Cheika in his initial June squad, before an injury to Samu Kerevi brought the Waratahs centre into the picture.
The 27-year-old said his selection at 13, his first start in the centres at Wallabies level since August 2012, came has a surprise.
“It's completely unexpected but I just can't wait to play some footy and to pull on that jersey again,” he said.
“It's something I thought was probably done for me but the opportunity, I just can't wait to go and play.”
Horne doesn’t know exactly how many more opportunities he will have in the Wallabies jersey, but his move means he has a definitive end in a sense, an awareness he is using to his advantage.
“I suppose you never really know when your last game is - very few players get that opportunity when they know that this could be it,” he said.
“Finding out the other day I (was going to play), I got a bit emotional but now I'm just excited.
“I just can't wait to play. I haven't played for a couple of weeks now and as a player that's all you want to do, so I'm just really excited to get out there.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said on Thursday that Horne had simply shown enough to deserve his first starting opportunity since last year’s June series.
“He’s really had a good work ethic,” he said.
“Like he said at the start of the camp when he came in, or the series, that he wants to treasure every chance he gets before he goes away and I think that he deserves his chance.”
When asked if he had considered looking at a younger pick, given Horne’s looming departure, Cheika was blunt.
“I don’t know how much more new talent you want blooded,” he said.
“We’ve had 20 debutants nearly over a year and a half. So, it’s not just give away the jersey to whoever you think.
“These jerseys have been worn by players who have worked hard and have performed for Australia at the top, top level.
“I take it very seriously in giving a player that opportunity.
“You’ve got to earn that jersey and I think Rob Horne, since he’s been in camp, I think he’s earned the opportunity.”
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