Japanese rugby’s pin-up boy Ayumu Goromaru has been named at fullback for the Queensland Reds in Saturday’s clash with the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium.
Goromaru will make just his third Super Rugby start for the Reds – alongside fellow Japanese Test star Hendrik Tui – with first-choice custodian Karmichael Hunt unable to recover from the groin strain that ruled him out last week.
But Samu Kerevi (broken hand) has not been included, meaning the aspiring Wallabies centre won’t play again ahead of a possible international debut in next month’s Test series against England.
Goromaru’s presence ensures a big crowd – likely larger than the 17,247 who attended the Reds-Waratahs clash earlier in the season – will be on hand for the Sunwolves’ first-ever match on Australian soil.
The 30-year-old became a cult figure in Japan for his role in their stunning World Cup campaign last year, and has been a huge marketing drawcard for the Reds, who have sold thousands of jerseys and memberships off the back of his popularity.
Tour groups will be travelling from Japan to Brisbane, specifically to see Goromaru take on some of his Test teammates.
New Zealand-born flanker Tui, meanwhile, has been one of Queensland’s best players this season.
The Reds have made just one change from the side that lost to the Hurricanes last week, with lock Cadeyrn Neville making a straight swap for Ben Matwijow, who drops to the bench.
The Sunwolves have tasted victory only once in their debut season but last week held the Stormers to a thrilling 17-17 draw, and interim co-coach Matt O’Connor said they are not to be underestimated.
“The Sunwolves are a quality outfit who were unlucky not to beat the Stormers last week and had a great win over the Jaguares recently in Tokyo,” he said.
“We are excited to be back home at Suncorp Stadium in front of our home fans after two away games in New Zealand.
“We need to learn the lessons from the Crusaders and Hurricanes games and ensure we put out a seasons best 80-minute performance.”
Queensland Reds: Ayumu Goromaru, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Campbell Magnay, Anthony Fainga’a, Eto Nabuli, Jake McIntyre, Nick Frisby, Curtis Browning, Liam Gill, Hendrik Tui, Rob Simmons, Cadeyrn Neville, Greg Holmes, Andrew Ready, James Slipper (c). Reserves: Matt Mafi, Sef Fa’agase, Sam Talakai, Ben Matwijow, Michael Gunn, James Tuttle, Duncan Paia’aua, Junior Laloifi.