From football to rugby, second-row to wing, track the progress of Harlequins speedster Gabriel Ibitoye

Harlequins and England U20 wing Gabriel Ibitoye

Date of birth 5 March 1998 Born Lambeth Club Harlequins Country England Position Wing

How did you get into rugby?

It was when I joined Trinity School (Croydon) at 11. All my mates played it so I gave it a go and enjoyed it. My mates went into the forwards so I did the same, but I had no idea about roles. In Year Seven I was in the second row, in Year Eight the back row and by Year Nine in the centre. Now I’m on the wing.

What are your strengths?

I’d say I’m quite evasive, using pace and agility to get in and out of spaces.

Did you play any other sports?

I joined Trinity on a football scholarship and also played indoor and outdoor hockey, and a bit of cricket in the summer. Trinity encourage you to do multiple sports so you gain different skills. At the age of 15 or 16 I had to focus on one and by then I was going better at rugby than football.

When did you link up with Harlequins?

At 13 I went into their development programme. We’d have training camps in the Surrey-Sussex region every few weeks and then when I was 15 I’d train with the U16s every Monday night. When I left school I joined the senior academy.

Who’s been the biggest influence on you?

I have to say Mum, Olaide. There are five of us – I’ve got two older sisters, a younger sister and a younger brother – and she was everywhere for all of us. She’s a single mum and always gave up a lot of time for us and prioritised my rugby. My dad helped a lot as well but my mum was at the front of that.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Thierry Henry, definitely. I’ve got a real passion for Arsenal and he’s the reason I support them – a gentleman off the pitch and classy on it.

You’ve trained with the senior England team. How was it?

It’s a good environment to be in, surrounding yourself with the best players in the country. I tried to learn little things here and there, but you shouldn’t change who you are as that’s what got you there in the first place.

RW VERDICT: Having been an integral figure in the England U16, U18 and U20 teams in recent years, Ibitoye will switch his attention to impressing new Quins DoR Paul Gustard as he targets more first-team game time.

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Rugby World. Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.