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'Hasn't disappointed': Ibitoye's first interview as Bristol player

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Bardens/World Rugby via Getty Images )

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Ex-England age-grade star Gabriel Ibitoye has given his first interview as a Bristol player. The 24-year-old quit Harlequins during the 2020 lockdown, moving overseas to play in France for Agen and Montpellier before spending last season at Tel Aviv, the Israeli-based European Super Cup team.  

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It was early April, though, when Bristol announced they had signed Ibitoye for the 2022/23 season and the dextrous winger has now shared his first impressions of the club during a two-and-a-half minute video interview published on the Bears website.

“I’ve settled in quite nicely,” he began. “The boys have been really accommodating, getting on really well with them and the coaches, helping me get up to speed, understand the Bears way and how we play. I’m really enjoying it so far.   

“Pre-season has been good. It has been difficult working hard as a group trying to get better every day and I have just loved being back in an environment day to day. It’s what I have been looking forward to and it hasn’t disappointed at all. 

“I’d like to say I’m an evasive winger. I try and beat people, enjoy the game as much as possible and play on feel and instinct and have fun out there, have fun with my teammates. I know a few guys from Bristol I have played with beforehand (for example, Kyle Sinckler and Harry Randall) and they have a lot of good things to say about this club. I’ve had a few conversations with Pat (Lam) in the past and I really believe in the vision here for Bristol Bears and I’m happy to join in and see what we can achieve.    

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“The past couple of years I have spent time away from Premiership rugby. It has made me more self-aware being in different environments, learning different styles of play, bettering my rugby knowledge and making myself a better person and a better player. I had a great experience in Tel Aviv… there was a nice blend of people and we got on like a house on fire. 

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“The rugby out there was also class, playing in different cities against opposition I wouldn’t necessarily face had I stayed in the Premiership or in France. It was also good to re-connect with old teammates, Demetri Catrakilis and Renaldo Bothma who were both at Harlequins, and the head coach Kev (Musikanth) gave me an opportunity to play regularly. I couldn’t have asked for more from them.”

A Londoner by birth who grew up in the English capital, Bristol is a very different scene for Ititoye. “I’ve got a few mates in Bristol so I didn’t move to the city a complete stranger and the boys have been really good with getting me outside of training, outside the club, to go and explore the city. I haven’t been around too much but looking forward to getting in the mixer. 

“We’re heading into a week off now, time for us to get away and relax, just to chill out and recharge. Then we come back in and focus on the pre-season games leading up to the first Prem game, Bath at home (on September 9, which will be very exciting.”

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