Paolo Odogwu: How Wasps star carved way into England squad


Rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes. That’s what they say.

If so, it was ill-prepared for Paolo Odogwu’s skillset.

Presented with a powerful 11-stone 11-year-old, his first coach initially picked Odogwu at prop.

Midway through his rugby debut, even the referee was questioning that tactic.

“I scored a 60-metre try and the referee was like ‘you’re too fast to be a prop’, and I was like ‘I don’t really know what a prop is’ to be honest,” Odogwu told the Coventry Telegraph in December.

Fortunately he never really had to learn.

Odogwu’s skills soon saw him shifted from number eight to centre to wing and finally back into midfield and a place in the England squad for Six Nations.

It is reward for a stellar start to the season with Wasps.

An injury to former all Black Malakai Fekitoa opened a door and Odogwu has barged through into the limelight.

The 23-year-old, who also qualifies for Italy and Nigeria, has scored six tries in eight games and leads the Premiership in defenders beaten and metres made.

Such stats seem almost inevitable when you see him play. Built like a bowling ball, but zipping about like a pinball, he can hurt defences in a number of ways.

He cleverly winkles out gaps in broken-field defences and has the blurring speed to drive through them.

His most recent appearance was in the sort of game he relishes.

Wasps beat Bath in a 52-44 full-throttle barnburner. Odogwu scored two tries, left Jonathan Joseph on the seat of his pants to set up a third and shrugged off Sam Underhill – England’s most effective tackler – on another burst.

“I didn’t know he was there,” said Odogwu afterwards of England coach Eddie Jones’ presence at the Rec.

“That’s good, I hope he enjoyed it.”

Jones seems to have done so. In a Six Nations squad cut down to 28 men by Covid precautions, the Australian, often unswayed by sudden bursts of Premiership form, has found room for a player who was barely on his radar a year ago.


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