Lepori earns Italian job

Date published: Friday, July 26, 2013

SCOTT Naylor has welcomed Oldham full-back Richard Lepori’s call-up to the Italian national side even though it means he will miss Sunday’s big game at Whitebank (3pm) against North Wales Crusaders.

Born in Chorley 21 years ago, of an English mother and an Italian father, Lepori has linked up with the Italian squad for a European Federation game against Germany in Karlsruhe tomorrow.

A top performance could elevate him into Italy’s World Cup squad for the tournament to be held in this country in the autumn.

Said Naylor: “I’d love him to get picked for that. He deserves it.

“It’s a pity he will miss one of the biggest games of the Roughyeds’ season, but when a player gets international recognition it’s good for him, good for his club and something that needs to be applauded.

“He trains and plays hard, he has a great attitude and he has been one of our best players all season.

“You’ve just got to be happy for the boy.”

Naylor was also happy when half a dozen players who have been carrying knocks each emerged from a final medical check at training last night with a thumbs-up gesture and smiles on their faces.

The Oldham boss won’t name his line-up until Saturday morning, nor will he speculate about who is likely to step into Lepori’s very talented shoes in the key defensive role of full-back.

He added: “I’ve got tough decisions to make all around the side, but especially so in the forwards.

“At this time of the season you need as many players as possible to be in contention for places, and I’m lucky to be blessed with such a good squad.

“I have a team in mind, obviously, but even the players don’t know it yet, so it will have to stay under wraps.

“Suffice to say I like the tough decisions. It means we have options. Also, it’s what I’m paid to do, it’s my job.”

That job will be at its hardest when Naylor looks at his options in naming six starting forwards and maybe another four on the bench.

How do you choose from Jason Boults, Liam Gilchrist, Phil Joy, Sam Gee, Adam Files, Matthew Haggarty, Nathan Mason, Michael Ward, Mark Hobson, Liam Thompson, Josh Crowley and Danny Langtree ?

Crowley scored two tries at centre last time out when switched from second-row in the second-half.

That might be a clue that Naylor has something up his sleeve.

Consider also that, of the dozen forwards named, the two to be tested for the first time against the Crusaders are loan men Mason and Haggarty.

All the rest are well known in the Crusaders’ camp. Mason and Haggarty are unknown quantities — and the element of surprise might be useful.

Added Naylor: “It’s going to be very interesting. People tell us Crusaders are the best team in the league, so it’s a big challenge for us and one we will relish.

“Players worth their salt want to pit themselves against the ‘best’ so we’ll do that and see what happens.”

* Oldham under-20s were beaten 54-0 at York last night. Said coach Phil Costin: “Tackling was dreadful, and no excuse for that, but as far as the overall performance was concerned there were extenuating circumstances.”

York fielded four first-team players in a strong squad, while Oldham played without  any senior men and were also minus several young regulars due to holidays, injury and work commitments.