1st Jul, 2022

RUGBY UNION - Odogwu: I'm not far from my best ahead of Newcastle clash

PAOLO Odogwu feels he is close to returning to his “best” form ahead of Wasps clash with Newcastle Falcons this weekend.

Odogwu has impressed for Wasps on the wing this season scoring six tries in as many matches having returned to action from a major knee injury against Toulouse back in January.

And despite Odogwu finding form out wide, the back feels his best position is at outside centre but believes having the skills to operate in two areas of the pitch can only improve him as a player.

His appearance against Toulouse earlier this year marked his first outing since May 2021 and Odogwu admitted Wasps tough January schedule was like a baptism by fire.

Odogwu said: “I feel like coming back in and going straight in to the deep end of Toulouse, Munster and all these teams was a baptism by fire for me to see how I’m feeling and how the leg is feeling.

“Although some of them haven’t felt as good as I could, relatively, it’s gone pretty well and still being healthy and feeling good in the knee and everything has been a blessing for me, I’m just happy to be rolling really.

“I don’t think I’m too far off, I’m playing slightly differently to last year because I’ve been on the wing a lot, it’s finding new ways to get involved even if I’m not getting many touches, when I do, I try and score.

“It’s taken a bit to build back up, not so much the confidence in the knee, but physically I’m quite a heavy person so getting that explosivity back in that leg and the jump and the step takes a few games to get back to that natural movement, I play off instinct a lot of the time.

“I definitely [would pick myself] at 13 and Lee feels the same that that’s going to be my strongest position long term but if I can play as a starter in two positions that’s only going to make me better.

“Even when I was injured I didn’t really think about it too much, when I’m playing I’m just thinking let’s go, let me just run, I don’t really think about the knee.”

And Odogwu is looking forward to this weekend’s home clash with Newcastle as Wasps try to revive their play-off hopes following a run of three straight defeats in the Gallagher Premiership.

Odogwu added: “It seems like so long ago since we last played at home I actually can’t remember when it was, we love playing there and recently the crowd have been really good and really loud and behind us, it’s been really enjoyable.

“As a collective, we want to finish the season as strong as possible, we got ourselves into a position where we were close to the top four, we saw it and we could get into it.

“Even though we’ve had a few results go the other way recently, you never know how the league is going to go, as long as we keep building our points and keep riding up the table as much as we can, you never know what is going to happen in the last week of the season.

“That massive spell of games where we played Toulouse, Munster, Saracens, Exeter, coming up against all these good teams and beating Leicester and breaking their unbeaten streak, going on that run and playing these top-end games is like playing a cup final every week.

“That eventually takes its toll on the boys because you’re exhausted after putting that much physical and emotional effort into games, after dipping a bit after those few games I think we’re slowly starting to build back up and hopefully we’ll be good at the weekend.”

Odogwu was on target as Wasps snapped their losing run with an emphatic win at Sale Sharks in the Premiership Rugby Cup last weekend and hopes to exact revenge on the Falcons who won at the Coventry Building Society Arena last season.

He said: “It’s always fun to go back to Sale, especially when we win, we’ve been a bit down recently, it’s always good, especially on the road, to go get a win and get such a convincing win as well with all the boys who are pushing to be in the team, really showing what they can do.

“It feels a bit awkward when the bye weeks come in and you have these Premiership Cup weeks but it’s also nice to have a bit of a rest as well, it’s a bit of both really.

“This season everyone is beating everyone, you never really know coming into a game who is on form and who is playing well because it can change on a weekend, for us it’s the same focus going into the game, execute what we can do and do a job on them because they [Newcastle] beat us last year so that’s one we have to get right.”

Wasps host Newcastle on Saturday, March 26 with kick-off at 3pm at the CBS Arena.

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