Bristol sign ex France international Virimi Vakatawa
Fiji-born Vakatawa was forced to walk away from professional rugby last September due to the discovery of a medical issue related to his heart.
Rules in France prevented Vakatawa from continuing to play for Racing 92 and he effectively retired, but last month he featured for Barbarians, who were being coached by Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam.
Lam and Bristol sought the advice of an expert panel of leading sports cardiologists and following an independent review, Vakatawa has signed on a 12-month deal after he was cleared to play in England.
“I’m excited to be joining Bristol Bears and to be continuing my rugby career at the highest level,” Vakatawa told the official club website.
“After working with Pat during my time with the Barbarians, I knew that this was the right place for me and I can’t wait to play in front of the Bristol fans.
“The Premiership has always been an exciting competition, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it this season, and representing the Bears in the Champions Cup.”
Vakatawa, 31, spent more than a decade at Racing before his shock retirement and helped them reach the Champions Cup final in 2018 and 2020.
Bristol director of rugby Lam is excited to see the all-action centre at Ashton Gate.
He added: “I am really pleased to be able to bring a player of Virimi’s class and quality to Bristol and the Gallagher Premiership as it’s exciting for our team, our supporters and our competition.
“I had the privilege of getting to know V better on and off the field recently and it was very clear to me that he would add real value to the Bears and would bring more depth and experience to our backline.
“Virimi is desperate to get back to playing at the highest level. For the Bears to be able to bring in a player of his quality is a huge statement for the Premiership and we’re delighted that he has chosen to continue his rugby journey with us.”