Paolo Odogwu: How Wasps star carved means into England squad
Rugby is a sport for all styles and sizes. That is what they are saying.
In that case, it was ill-prepared for Paolo Odogwu’s skillset.
Offered with a robust 11-stone 11-year-old, his first coach initially picked Odogwu at prop.
Halfway via his rugby debut, even the referee was questioning that tactic.
“I scored a 60-metre try to the referee was like ‘you are too quick to be a prop’, and I used to be like ‘I do not actually know what a prop is’ to be trustworthy,” Odogwu advised the Coventry Telegraph in December.
Luckily he by no means actually needed to study.
Odogwu’s abilities quickly noticed him shifted from quantity eight to centre to wing and at last again into midfield and a spot within the England squad for Six Nations.
It’s reward for a stellar begin to the season with Wasps.
An damage to former all Black Malakai Fekitoa opened a door and Odogwu has barged via into the limelight.
The 23-year-old, who additionally qualifies for Italy and Nigeria, has scored six tries in eight video games and leads the Premiership in defenders crushed and metres made.
Such stats appear nearly inevitable if you see him play. Constructed like a bowling ball, however zipping about like a pinball, he can harm defences in a lot of methods.
He cleverly winkles out gaps in broken-field defences and has the blurring velocity to drive via them.
His most up-to-date look was within the type of sport he relishes.
Wasps beat Bathtub in a 52-44 full-throttle barnburner. Odogwu scored two tries, left Jonathan Joseph on the seat of his pants to arrange a 3rd and shrugged off Sam Underhill – England’s simplest tackler – on one other burst.
“I did not know he was there,” mentioned Odogwu afterwards of England coach Eddie Jones’ presence on the Rec.
“That is good, I hope he loved it.”
Jones appears to have achieved so. In a Six Nations squad lower down to twenty-eight males by Covid precautions, the Australian, usually unswayed by sudden bursts of Premiership type, has discovered room for a participant who was barely on his radar a yr in the past.
|Tries scored||Metres made||Clear breaks|
|1. S Simmonds 8||1. P Odogwu 367m||1. P Odogwu 12|
|2. P Odogwu 5||2. A Barbeary 295m||2 = H Purdy 10|
|3. Six others 3||3. M Nanai 280m||2 = N David 10|
Odogwu made solely eight try-less appearances for Wasps in 2019-20. The few headlines have been for a pink card.
Within the final minute of a sport towards Sale, he went up for a excessive ball and caught Rohan Janse van Rensburg within the face along with his outstretched foot.
The aftermath and Odogwu’s reflections on it, his sport and society normally present a person who thinks deeply and speaks clearly.
Odogwu reacted with apparent shock to referee Tom Foley’s resolution, shaking his head and applauding, apparently sarcastically, as he walked off.
He apologised on social media afterwards, however the venom he obtained made him query if rugby is as welcoming, accepting and understanding because it typically claims.
“It is an emotional, skilled sport, but when I present something in addition to being stone-faced, shake fingers and run off…,” he advised The XV.
“It’s a slippery slope the place you do not wish to show any emotion, you do not wish to present your self.”
Odogwu, who grew up idolising Nigerian soccer legend Jay-Jay Okocha, does present himself. He personalises his boots with drawings of wrestlers and superheroes. He dyes his dreadlocks. Requested what he is likely to be if he weren’t a rugby participant, he lists designer as a potential profession path.
“That is one thing that has bothered me for some time as a result of the entire promoting level of rugby is that it is a sport for everybody, it is actually inclusive,” he added.
“If you really have a look at it, they count on everybody to behave in the identical means.
“I got here via the Leicester Tigers academy and also you needed to match a sure mould, it was drill-sergeant sort of vibes.
“You could not have that expression of individuality that makes gamers completely different and makes gamers nice.
“In quite a lot of English groups, you barely see folks smiling.”
If Odogwu can add the glitter to the truckload of grit in Jones’ facet, there can be a number of extra grins on English faces.