Benetton annouce Paolo Odogwu as their latest recruit

Paolo Odogwu in action for Wasps
Paolo Odogwu in action for Wasps

Paolo Odogwu, recently recruited by Italy, has confirmed that he will be joining Benetton as his new club following the completion of his short-term contract with Stade Francais.

The versatile center/winger had ventured to France after the collapse of Gallagher Premiership club Wasps last October, where he made 12 appearances for the Paris-based team.

However, with Stade Francais being eliminated from the playoffs by Racing 92 earlier this month, Odogwu was listed among the 13 players set to depart. Benetton has now officially announced that he will join them for the 2023/24 URC/Challenge Cup campaign, and potentially longer.

Odogwu's inclusion in Benetton's lineup will undoubtedly enhance his prospects for selection, considering the presence of former Wasps players Jacob Umaga, Marcus Watson, Matteo Minozzi, and Malakai Fekitoa in the club. The Coventry-born 26-year-old, of Nigerian and Italian heritage, had previously represented England at various age-grade levels but is now fully committed to representing Italy.

A statement released by Benetton read, "We are delighted to announce the signing of Paolo Odogwu until June 30, 2024, with an option for another season. He is a versatile back capable of playing both center and wing positions. His profile guarantees disruptive physicality on the field, along with consistent speed and excellent technical abilities. Odogwu is one of the most promising talents on the international stage and already possesses significant club-level experience."

The statement continued, "Having been called up to the Italian squad in recent weeks in preparation for the 2023 World Cup, which kicks off in September in France, Odogwu began his rugby journey at the school level and spent his formative years at Leicester Tigers before signing with Sale Sharks following his release in the summer of 2016. In 2019, he joined Wasps."

Expressing his excitement about joining Benetton, Odogwu stated, "The main reason behind my decision to join Benetton is the opportunity to challenge myself in a new environment and league with a team that is progressing remarkably well. It's also thrilling to reunite with old friends like Umaga, Watson, Minozzi, and Fekitoa. After reaching the Challenge Cup semi-finals last season, the bar is set high."

He added, "We have a team built to go beyond the regular season in both competitions. Furthermore, at this stage of my career, it is crucial for me to have the chance to play in Treviso and potentially represent my country simultaneously. Following my experience with Wasps, I am eagerly looking forward to settling down and starting a new season without the fear of a similar situation occurring again."

Antonio Pavanello, the general manager of Benetton, commented, "Discussions with Paolo have been ongoing for some time, and when the opportunity arose, together with the Italian Rugby Federation's support for his involvement in international activities, we tried to seize it by reaching an agreement for the upcoming seasons."

Pavanello further explained, "Odogwu is a versatile player capable of filling both center and wing roles, particularly excelling in the latter. We desired to incorporate an Italian profile that would bring greater explosiveness and physicality. Therefore, with Paolo's attributes, we now have a range of players with different qualities in the respective positions, allowing us to implement various strategies and meet diverse needs throughout the season."