South Sydney Rabbitohs stars Lachlan Ilias and Peter Mamouzelos will proudly pull on the blue and white jerseys of Greece at the World Cup.
Half-back Ilias, 22, was born and raised in Sydney but qualifies to play for Greece through his grandparents on his father’s side of the family.
“I’m very excited to represent my Greek heritage,” Ilias told The Roar’s World Cup Chasers podcast.
“I haven’t played for them before. I probably haven’t embraced my Greek heritage as much as I should so I’m really excited to pull on that blue and white jersey and get out here.”
Ilias has yet to make his international debut. But he will do so with immense pride this autumn when he plays in memory of his grandfather Spyrou, who recently passed away.
“That’s what is driving me to play for Greece,” Ilias said.
“I never got to put on that jersey (whilst he was still here). I’m going into this World Cup purely to represent him and my family.
“I’m really pushing to play even if my body is not in the right condition. I really want to play for Greece and do it for him and my family. It is really big for me.”
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Mamouzelos can’t wait for World Cup
Hooker Mamouzelos, 21, was also born and raised in Sydney, but he is eligible to play for Greece through both sets of his grandparents.
He has already represented his Greek heritage by helping them qualify for their first-ever Rugby League World Cup.
“At the time I was 17 or 18 so it was pretty cool to verse men, especially representing my country for the first time,” Mamouzelos told the weekly World Cup podcast.
“It was special and it is a good trip over there with the boys, learning about our heritage. I really enjoyed it so I can’t wait for the World Cup this year.
“We are all in a WhatsApp group. We check up on each other but the only meet up we’ve had was at a dinner a couple of weeks ago. I think we’re going to head to Greece before we got to England just to get to know each other a bit more and then travel as a team to London.”
Greece plotting “upset of the century”
World Cup debutants Greece are in a group alongside Samoa, France and hosts England.
Ilias and Mamouzelos will come up against their Rabbitohs team-mate Tom Burgess when they meet England in Sheffield on October 29.
The Greek pair know just how hard of a challenge it will be to get a win at the World Cup, and joked about their plan to reach the semi-finals.
“I think the realistic expectation is we focus on France in the first game and try to win that game,” Ilias laughed.
“We’ll see what happens against Samoa, the second game is a tough game because everyone is trying to win it. And then England put on their second side and then we get the upset of the century; and Greece go to the semi-finals!”
Mamouzelos added: “As long as Tom plays and we win, that’s all we want!”
Ilias added: “We are going to have fun. We will play our best footy if we are enjoying ourselves.
“We might not have the best team, but we will enjoy ourselves. I reckon that’s how we can win games.”
Greece will play Championship side Bradford at Odsal in a World Cup warm-up match on October 8.