Ex-England prospect Gabriel Ibitoye makes shock Tel Aviv switch
Gabriel Ibitoye, the former England age-grade World Cup finalist, has completed a shock move to Tel Aviv Heat, the Israel club that will be taking on Georgian and Russian clubs in the eastern conference of the Rugby Europe Super Cup. The move comes just over a year after Ibitoye quit Harlequins for an unsuccessful stint in France with Agen and then on loan at Montpellier.
Ibitoye had been making quite a name for himself in the Premiership, scoring eight tries in his 23 league appearances, but he felt during lockdown stoppage of the 2019/20 season that his future was best served elsewhere and he decided to sign for Agen.
That alliance wasn’t a happy one, however, as Ibitoye played just seven times for the club that is now back in Pro D2 following relegation. So dissatisfied was the English winger that a loan spell was arranged at Montpellier where he finished out the Top 14 season.
With his time in France over, he has since been a free agent and the 23-year-old has now surprisingly popped up in Israel, embracing an adventure no one could have ever foreseen him making when a rising star at Harlequins just a couple of years ago.
Demetri Catrakilis, who spent two years playing at Harlequins, has been the makeweight in the deal, his association with Ibitoye helping to convince the player to give the Israeli club a chance. “I’m extremely excited to be working with a great talent like Gabs. He has proven himself at the highest level and we are fortunate he is part of our squad,” said Catrakilis, the Heat’s attack coach, on the club’s website.
Scintillating Gabriel Ibitoye Will Light Up the Super Cup with The Tel Aviv Heat!
Exciting outside back Gabriel Ibitoye is bringing his electric, try-scoring skills to the Tel Aviv Heat.https://t.co/X1urLYtzli pic.twitter.com/13G8YHx2Vf
— Tel Aviv Heat (@TelAvivHeat) September 24, 2021
“Gabs will bring great excitement to our squad and the tournament as a whole. There is no doubt in my mind that has a great future ahead of him and we will do our best to give him the platform and environment to express himself to do what he does best. I’m very much looking forward to coaching him.”
Ibitoye added: “I’m excited to be joining up with the Tel Aviv Heat. It’s a great opportunity to play with new players in a different environment. Looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead and hope to make some history in this new franchise.
Kevin Musikanth, the Tel Aviv director of rugby who has also signed Nic Groom, said: “Gabs is an unbelievable rugby player. It is not just his physical abilities and work ethic that makes him world-class, it is his ability to read the game and be in the perfect places to express his talents. He does this with great energy.
“He has the makings of a real global superstar and I look forward to the influence he will have on the growth of the game in our region and of course the excitement that he will provide for the inaugural Rugby Europe Super Cup competition and its fan base.”
It was March 2019, shortly after a contract renewal at The Stoop, when Ibitoye spoke to RugbyPass about the hopes and dreams he had for his career. “I spoke to Paul (Gustard) and we have a plan of where we think I’m heading. He seemed like the right man to help me 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 every 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 are a lot of small stepping stones I have got to take before eventually doing that. I need to cement a starting spot at Harlequins and become 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.”
Great article about @_gabs11 on @RugbyPass which reflects everything that @sebsfoundation is about. @SebOlule1 was another Arsenal-loving Croydon boy rejected on the football pitch. @sebsfoundation breaks down barriers so that young people can fulfill their potential in rugby. https://t.co/JnwJiA0wSM
— SebsFoundation (@sebsfoundation) March 23, 2019
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