Reserved off it, explosive on it – Gabriel Ibitoye’s performance against Samoa was one of many highlights on Wednesday.
Scoring two tries in England’s World Rugby U20 Championship opener tells just part of the story of his performance.
The Harlequins back was at his best on Wednesday, scything through Samoa at will, creating, finishing and helping England score 12 tries on the way to an impressive victory.
11 carries, three line breaks, five passes, two offloads, eight tackles and one try saving tackle tell the rest of that story.
But as he explains, his rugby journey started off very differently.
'Love at first sight'
“I actually started off in the second row because I was the tallest which is a bit weird as now I’m one of the shortest,” said Ibitoye.
So why rugby? “Probably just the running around, as an outside back, just getting the ball and running and having that licence to express yourself. I fell in love with it.”
He captained Surrey U15, was the side’s player of the season in 2013 and also led Harlequins at U16 level.
Scoring tries in his first two matches for England U16 in victories over Scotland and Wales in 2014 gave Ibitoye’s international career lift off.
He describes his debut as “surreal” and an “honour” and followed his performances for the U16s with four tries in his first match for England U18 in the 85-8 win over Portugal.
So what’s it like singing the national anthem for the first time? A huge smile breaks out on Ibitoye’s face: “It’s weird, you see all the first team boys doing it and you think ‘one day’, in my head I was just thinking don’t mess up the words.”"In my head I was just thinking don’t mess up the words."
He’s been with Harlequins since the age of 12 and joined the Quins Senior Academy in 2016/17.
For a man so laid back, his reasons for playing the sport are somewhat surprising, but when at his explosive best he is a joy to watch.
“I love the physicality of rugby and the adrenaline you get from playing the game is what appeals to me most,” he explains.
Off the pitch he is no different to any other 19-year-old. “I enjoy sleeping, playing Fifa, nothing too mad,” he says.
Ibitoye is also studying maths with finance and economics at City University, although has taken a break from his studies to concentrate on playing for England U20.
“I have an interest in trading, foreign exchange,” he explains. “That’s what I see myself doing if I wasn’t playing rugby.”
'Tempo and work rate'
He credits his mother as being a driving force in his career, adding: “My mum has been a massive influence on my career, and has sacrificed a lot of time.
“It’s not easy for her as she looks after five kids on her own. So devoting a lot of time to me and taking me all over the country is something I really appreciate.”
Ibitoye was part of the U20 side that sealed a Grand Slam earlier this year, winning the Six Nations.
He hopes to follow up that success with glory in Georgia this month and when asked what impact he wants to have, he replies: “I want to be the type of player that brings a lot of tempo and work rate.
“So I want loads of involvement in the game and to run down the opposition.”
If England’s first game in Georgia is anything to go by, that opposition will be running scared.
Follow Gabriel Ibitoye's journey on Instagram: @gabs11_