After almost two years wandering the rugby wilderness, former Harlequins winger Gabriel Ibitoye is closing in on a Premiership return after reportedly agreeing to join Bristol Bears at the end of this season.
The ex- England under-20 star left The Stoop in July 2020 to take his craft to France, where he played for a relegated Agen side before agreeing an early exit to join Montpellier as a medical joker.
Ibitoye, 23, has since gone on to shine with Israel's first professional rugby outfit, the Tel Aviv Heat, after he joined the club this past September.
But it appears his stay will be brief after The Times reported Ibitoye has agreed to join Pat Lam's Bristol ahead of the 2022/23 Premiership campaign.
It wouldn't be the first time director of rugby Lam has looked to less likely sources for recruits, having signed winger Toby Fricker from Welsh Premiership side Ebbw Vale and Siva Naulago from Super League outfit Hull FC.
Ibitoye has the tools to prove the best of that bunch, however, after consistently outperforming his peers in the Rugby Europe Super Cup.
Demetri Catrakilis—the former Harlequins fly-half who spent two seasons as Ibitoye's team-mate—now serves as Tel Aviv coach, and he told RugbyPass in October he was in amazement the club had landed the player.
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“I don’t know how Gabs is playing for us," he said. "He [Ibitoye] should be playing for one of the best clubs in the world. He needs another chance and hopefully he is going to showcase his talents with us.”
Ibitoye scored 10 tries in 21 appearances for Quins during his final season at the club, but he struggled to find the same productivity in the Top 14.
The Heat were unable to advance past the group stage of the eastern conference in this season's Rugby Europe Super Cup, but that didn't prevent Ibitoye from shining throughout.
Playing mostly at outside centre for his Israeli employers, the speedster ended his competition with four tries in six appearances and was a constant source of attacking impetus, setting up another handful of scores.
Bristol have already announced two significant signings for the summer, with Leicester Tigers captain Ellis Genge returning to the club and Sale Sharks fly-half AJ MacGinty en route.
Lam's side are targeting serious improvements after struggling in the first half of this Premiership campaign, with the club currently 12th in the table and only winless Bath sat below them.
The return of back-line talisman Semi Radradra has boosted their performances of late, but the addition of a talent like Ibitoye could help provide more capable cover for such absences in future.
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