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Wasps weigh up uncapped Odogwu coming back from England in late March having not played since January 8

By Liam Heagney

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Wasps remain hopeful that Paolo Odogwu will earn a debut cap with England during the 2021 Guinness Six Nations and won’t return to the Gallagher Premiership club in late March without playing any rugby since a man-of-the-match January 8 league appearance at Bath.     

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A new call-up to the Eddie Jones set-up, Odogwu wasn’t chosen in either of the matchday 23s for the opening games against Scotland and Italy. 

The fixture against the Italians would have been seen as his best chance to get a look-in and the odds are now against 24-year-old Odogwu – who celebrated his birthday on February 18 – featuring against Wales, France or Ireland unless an injury to Jones’ current favoured England team picks creates a vacancy. 

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Normally the fallow weeks in the Six Nations would present Jones with the opportunity to release his fringe players back to their clubs to get some game time. However, with England having tightened their protocols surrounding their safety bubble, none of the players in the Test squad have been released on this occasion. 

That has created the possibility that Odogwu could return to Wasps next month without having featured at all in the tournament and he would be dealing with an eleven-week gap in between matches if his next appearance is the league game at home to Sale on March 27.

“Look, we want Paolo to play for England,” said Wasps boss Lee Blackett, keeping his fingers crossed that his player will gain Test match selection. “The last thing we want is him not playing in the next ten weeks but on the flip side, we want him there playing for England, giving himself every opportunity. He is staying with them so hopefully he gets some game time with them. 

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“The first time these young players go in with England, they always come back a better player. It’s a different environment, they get into the set-up, they are hungry to stay in it and definitely, even if they don’t play, they generally on the whole come back better. It’s probably more difficult if let’s say this was his third or his fourth time in camp, I’d be a bit more concerned.

“The only contact I had with him was probably ten days ago maybe,” added Blackett. “I just sent him a text seeing how it was going. He was really enjoying the different environment, different challenges. 

“I spoke to Dan Robson a couple of days ago, asked Dan how Paolo was going and he said he was being pretty positive, he had been going well. I actually spoke to Richard Hill as well the other day and he said how well he has been going within the camp, so there is a lot of positive signs there. 

“I’m sure Paolo will be getting a lot of text messages. It’s that fine balance sometimes as a coach getting too involved or just leaving him to it and that is where we are with him. He is going pretty well by the sounds of it, he has been enjoying it but I have not spoken to him in the last week.”

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Odogwu scored five tries in six Premiership appearances this winter for Wasps, adding another score in his two European appearances to help him grab the attention of England boss Jones who opted to include him in his Six Nations squad after the player, who had been starring at outside centre and wing, was linked with a call-up by Italy.   

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Wasps weigh up uncapped Odogwu coming back from England in late March having not played since January 8

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