Top 14 club Agen have confirmed they have secured the signature of Harlequins’ Gabriel Ibitoye in time for the September start of the 2020/21 season.
The Gallagher Premiership winger is the French club’s second recruit from England in recent weeks after they also snapped up the services of Noel Reid, one of the Leicester players who opted to leave Welford Road rather than accept a 25 per cent salary cut.
Delighted to finally conclude business with Ibitoye, Agen tweeted: “We can finally formalise the arrival of the young English nugget Gabriel Ibitoye in Agen for two seasons!
“This latest high-quality recruit completes our ambitious and promising recruitment of this off-season!”
Club president Jean-Francois Fonteneau has been recruiting ambitiously in the hope of improving a side that was placed 13th, in one of the relegation spots, when the 2019/20 season was cancelled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vous l'attendiez, c'est maintenant officiel !
— SUA LG (@agen_rugby) July 28, 2020
A 22-year-old Londoner, Ibitoye had demonstrated his pedigree at England U20s level and was impressing as part of the set-up at Harlequins, scoring 14 tries in 40 appearances for the club. It was his performance versus Clermont last November in the Champions Cup in France that apparently brought him to the attention of Agen.
His loss to Harlequins ahead of the restart of the suspended 2019/20 Premiership will be covered by the return to action at The Stoop of fit-again Nathan Earle, who had been absent with a long-term knee injury.
Ibitoye’s move to France will shelve his hopes of gaining England Test level selection as players can’t be selected if they are based outside the country.
Speaking to RugbyPass in March 2019, shortly after he had extended his Harlequins deal for the 2019/20 season, the uncapped Ibitoye said: “I spoke to Paul (Gustard, the Harlequins boss) and we have a plan of where we think I’m heading.
“He seemed like the right man to help my progress as efficiently and as quickly as possible to where I want to be in a few years’ time, so it was an easy decision to make in the end.
“The goal for everyone young rugby player is to represent their country. That is the ultimate goal for me, to represent England and win the World Cup, but there is a lot of small stepping stones I have got to take before eventually doing that.
“I need to be cementing a starting spot at Harlequins and becoming a big player for them. That will come first and then playing consistently week in and week out to catch Eddie Jones’ attention, that will put me in a good position to be able to represent my country.
'If you had said to me in that moment I would play until I was 35 I would have called you an idiot'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 26, 2020
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