England hopeful Paolo Odogwu could make his first start for nearly three months when Wasps face Heineken Champions Cup opponents Clermont Auvergne on Saturday. Uncapped wing Odogwu was a member of England’s Guinness Six Nations squad throughout this season’s tournament, but he did not see a minute of action.
He returned to Wasps colours as a second-half substitute in a 20-19 Gallagher Premiership defeat against Sale Sharks last weekend. Odogwu, 24, last featured in a Wasps starting line-up on January 8, scoring two tries during a 52-44 victory over Bath that potentially thrust him into England contention.
“I think he really enjoyed his first experience (of England),” Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said. “He is frustrated not to play, but you would expect that from any player. To go 11 weeks without playing, it’s going to take him a little bit of time to get back to that form we feel like we got him to. Hopefully, he can do it. I am sure he can.
“I don’t think he was a million miles away, by all accounts. Eddie (Jones, England coach) wouldn’t have kept him in if he didn’t like him. He has obviously done some pleasing things. The data we get given from England shows that he was pretty much running at maximum intensity in their training sessions, and sometimes above and beyond.
“I am looking forward to seeing what he has picked up at England, and see if he is that improved player that Eddie has talked to the media about.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 17, 2021
Clermont’s visit to the Ricoh Arena sees Wasps playing the first home European Cup knockout tie since they beat Exeter in 2016. The round of 16 encounter comes after a frustrating run of Premiership results for Wasps, with five defeats in their last six games.
“We are not anywhere near where we know we can be, and that is why I am really looking forward to this week,” Blackett added. “Different competition – change it up. We put the (European Cup) music on yesterday, and just that music alone, I can confirm goose-bumps and you are thinking of the great occasions that have been before. It’s pretty special.
“When you get to the knockout stage of this competition, you are not going to get a team that is not top drawer. For the northern hemisphere, this competition is the pinnacle. There are 16 quality teams left.
“This week was a really hard review of the (Sale) game. It was a tough one for the players to take. As you would imagine, there was a fair bit where we felt we let ourselves down. But we moved on at the end of that and put the music on, and you can see the difference in the players and the excitement. We can’t wait to get out there.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 30, 2021
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