The returning Richard Lepori is determined to make up for lost time, by helping Oldham conquer London in Sunday’s elimination play-off at Whitebank.
Lepori, 21, recently followed up his debut hat-trick for Italy in July by producing another man-of-the-match performance in a 32-20 win against Serbia.
The win clinched second place in the final European Shield table for the Italians, and enhanced the Roughyeds full-back’s dream of making it into the 2013 World Cup squad.
Lepori however said he was “gutted” when he got off the plane in Manchester, after Oldham skipper Lewis Palfrey informed him of the club’s 23-22 loss against Rochdale.
In-form Skolars now stand between Oldham and a re-match with derby rivals Rochdale in the Championship One play-off final at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday, September 29 for the right to be promoted to the Championship.
Lepori said: “I’m focused on only one thing now, and that’s getting the job done against Skolars.
“Having had time to reflect, I think the Rochdale defeat might be a blessing in disguise because it gives us another game. And whatever anybody says we were bound to be a little bit under-cooked, not having had a competitive match for nearly four and a half weeks.
“Lewis (Palfrey) has given me the run-down on what happened last Sunday and we’re determined to learn from that and not make the same mistakes again.
“The boss played in loads of play-off games, winning a lot more than he lost, so he knows what it’s all about and he can identify what needs to be put right from last week.
“I’ll always be grateful to him for letting me play for Italy even though it meant me missing two important Oldham games.
“I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to prove myself at that level and to give myself a once-in-a-lifetime chance of getting into the World Cup squad.
“None of this would have happened without Oldham’s co-operation and without the backing the club has always given me.
“I can think of no better way to repay that faith than by helping the boys to do the business on Sunday.
“Team and club are all-important. Anything I or any of the boys pick up individually is a bonus.”
Playing on the right wing against Serbia, Lepori won his man-of-the-match billing by scoring one and setting up two of Italy‘s six tries, the first of these with a break covering 80 metres.
He added: “Serbia gave it a real dig. We had to battle in defence, but we stuck to our plan and scored most of our tries down the flanks.
“I think the coach was pleased with me, but I’ll have to wait for a few days to find out whether I’m in the World Cup plans. I’m not banking on it because there’s a lot of competition and it’s another step-up in standard.”