Richard Lepori on his Italian heritage, James Tedesco & playing at a World Cup

Drew Darbyshire

Richard Lepori is incredibly proud of his Italian heritage and says representing Italy in rugby league is a great way to stay connected to his family.

The Swinton winger was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, to an English mother and Italian father. He is now based in the North West but still regularly visits his extended family in Italy.

“I’m half Italian,” Lepori said. “My dad is Italian and he moved over to London when he was in his 20s and met my mum down there while she was working as a nurse.

“I was born in St Albans but all my family still live in Italy like my nana, auntie and cousins. They live in Sardinia where my dad is from – it is a beautiful part of the world.

“I try to get over to Italy at least once year and we were hoping to go again this year but I don’t know if we will be able to go over this year.”

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Lepori qualifies to play for Italy via his Italian heritage and he has earned nine caps so far, scoring 12 tries.

The 28-year-old says he loves representing his family on the international stage, and connecting with his Italian culture.

“It is massive for me to play for Italy,” he added. “It brings my heritage together and playing for Italy is a great way for me still being connected to my heritage and family.

“We get to go on so many great trips and there are so many great people involved with the Italian set up. Me and my missus were learning the language last year.”

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Lepori was selected in the Azzurri squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup which was held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. He earned one cap in the tournament which came against Fiji.

“It was crazy to play at the World Cup in 2017,” he continued. “I was a squad player, I wasn’t really expected to play but we had a few injuries so I was brought in for our game against Fiji at Canberra Stadium, so it was a good experience.

“We had some good players in our side. James Tedesco and Paul Vaughan played for us and they went on to play State of Origin the following year.

“We had Terry Campese, Josh Mantellato, Nathan Brown and Mark Minichiello so it was a crazy squad. It was my birthday while we were over there as well so it was a good trip as you can imagine.

“If I had never played for Italy then I would have never experienced these highs. James Tedesco and Terry Campese were crazy players for us and Anthony Minichiello was our assistant coach, so it was pretty mad.

“It was mad to be fair because the NRL boys are like superstars in Australia. You are walking around and go for a coffee, and loads of people wanted pictures with Tedesco and Vaughan.

“Cameron Ciraldo was our coach at the World Cup and he is a top coach. He brought all the lads together and created a really good culture between us all.”

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