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Vakatawa signs for English Premiership side in sensational return to rugby

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Wednesday Sep 27, 2023

Virimi Vakatawa is set to take his place on the world stage once again as he’s announced to be joining Bristol Bears ahead of the 2023/2024 season.

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This will be Vakatawa’s first foray back into top-class rugby since his shock and immediate retirement last year. The Ligue Nationale de Rugby’s medical committee had previously banned the French international from playing professional rugby due to a cardiac issue.

His retirement has not lasted long, however, with the English side announcing their new arrival on social media on Wednesday evening.

An independent review by an expert panel of leading sports cardiologists have now cleared Vakatawa to return to top level rugby, in a move that will thrill west-country fans.

Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, said: “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.”

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Vakatawa added: “I’m excited to be joining Bristol Bears and to be continuing my rugby career at the highest level. 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.”

The former French international scored 10 tries in his 32-caps as he became one of the most feared centres in world rugby. A former 7s player and a Racing 92 stalwart, Vakatawa’s highlight reel is something special.

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