Italy make contact with Premiership trio on England's radar in hope of strengthening for Six Nations

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Harlequins' Louis Lynagh during the Heineken Champions Cup match between Harlequins and Castres Olympique at The Stoop on January 21, 2022 in London, England - Italy make contact with Premiership trio to strengthen backline ahead of Six Nations - GETTY IMAGES
Harlequins' Louis Lynagh during the Heineken Champions Cup match between Harlequins and Castres Olympique at The Stoop on January 21, 2022 in London, England - Italy make contact with Premiership trio to strengthen backline ahead of Six Nations - GETTY IMAGES

Italy have made contact with a number of potential new players including Wasps' Paolo Odogwu, Saracens' Alex Lozowski and Harlequins' Louis Lynagh ahead of the 2022 Six Nations, with head coach Kieran Crowley seeking to strengthen his backline.

Odogwu and Lynagh qualify through family links - Odogwu's father is half-Italian, while Lynagh was born in Treviso and qualifies through his mother - while Lozowski is now eligible to switch allegiances from England to Italy having not been capped by England for over three years since facing Japan in the 2018 autumn Tests, and also qualifies for Italy through his grandmother.

Lynagh has been called up by England in the past but not capped, after a breakthrough season in 2020-21 for Harlequins in which he scored pivotal tries in their run to a first Gallagher Premiership title in nine years. Odogwu, meanwhile, trained with England throughout the 2021 Six Nations without being capped before rupturing his ACL. Odogwu returned to action for Wasps earlier this month.

“I have been in contact. I haven’t personally been in contact with Paolo but he has been contacted,” Crowley said at the Six Nations launch. “[Lozowski and Lynagh] I have spoken to personally. They have made decisions at the moment that I respect. I support them. I’ll keep in contact with them. But certainly if they were available, we’d certainly be looking at them. They are all quality players. We will keep the lines of communication open. Not only with those three but there are a number of others as well.”

"You have got to talk to them around their desires. I have had conversations with them about their availability for Italy. Louis is also eligible for Australia. They have some decisions to make.

"They are playing for clubs in England and if they suddenly make themselves available for Italy, how does that affect their contractual status, which is their livelihood?"

Lozowski missed out on the latest England squad despite his good form for Saracens since returning on loan from Montpellier.

"Well that’s a question for Alex," said Mark McCall, the Saracens' director of rugby, when asked about Italy's interest in Lozowski on Wednesday. "I do know he’s in the shadow squad for England. He’s one of the players who was contacted and is on the standby list. I think when you’re close to the England set-up, it would be a big decision to commit to Italy at this point. He’s had a brilliant season and everyone knows that; whether he’s played at 10, which he’s done for us a few times, or at 13, which is his favourite position. He’s been awesome all year."

Crowley also discussed Italy's recent struggles in the Six Nations, having not won a fixture in the tournament since 2015 and the suggestion that the Azzurri should be relegated.

"If I was giving a personal opinion, I would welcome a promotion and relegation system," Crowley added. "Who is to say that anyone else would be any better than Italy in the Six Nations?"

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