Former France international Virimi Vakatawa is set to resume his career as a professional rugby player after being tempted out of retirement by Premiership outfit Bristol Bears.
The 31-year-old was forced into retirement last September due to the discovery of a medical issue related to his heart.
Career came to a grinding halt in France
Rules in France prevented the Fijian-born star from continuing to play for Racing 92 and he effectively retired, but last month he turned out for the Barbarians against Samoa in Brive.
The Baa-baas were being coached by Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam, who along with Bristol sought the advice of an expert panel of leading sports cardiologists and following an independent review, Vakatawa has joined the Bears on a one-year contract 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 Bristol Bears’ official 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 spent more than a decade at Racing before his shock retirement and helped the Parisian outfit reach the Champions Cup final in 2018 and 2020.
Excited by Vakatawa’s signing
Lam is excited that the centre has decided to join the Ashton Gate-based club.
“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,” he said.
“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.”