Forget turning Japanese – star Queensland Reds import Ayumu Goromaru might just be turning Australian.
Japan’s World Cup hero now gets around in thongs and footy shorts, rates Brisbane’s Japanese food as better than his wife’s cooking, and has dished all the dirt on his Test teammates to his new bosses at Ballymore.
Goromaru has been named to start at fullback against the Sunwolves on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium in what looms as a unique celebration of Super Rugby’s expansion into the far east.
“It’s going to be a really exciting, enjoyable match no matter which way you look at it,” Goromaru told reporters on Thursday.
“But regardless of who we’re playing, I’m a professional rugby player representing the Reds and I want the Reds to win. I’m doing everything in my power to achieve that.”
The 30-year-old has barely played for the Reds this season – and even though interim co-coach Matt O’Connor refused to be drawn into a hypothetical, the reality is Goromaru wouldn’t even be in the match-day squad if first-choice fullback Karmichael Hunt (groin) was fit.
But the stars have aligned for the man who orchestrated Japan’s incredible World Cup victory over South Africa last year, and with the Reds desperate for their third win of the year, the pressure is on.
With tour groups coming from Japan specifically for this match and Brisbane’s ex-pat community likely to emerge from the woodwork for a taste of ‘Goro’ fever, it could be Queensland’s biggest crowd of the season on Saturday.
Such is the extent of his cult of personality in Japan since the World Cup that it’s hard to say who the travelling fans would actually want to win.
“I never had any idea when we had the South Africa game that so many Japanese people were actually paying attention,” Goromaru said.
Goromaru played 80 minutes in last week’s loss to the Hurricanes and O’Connor says he will be “significantly better” for the run.
He will also retain the kicking duties, giving him the chance to live up to his dead-eye reputation despite some early-season struggles with the boot.
“Part of the problem with his kicking was that he wasn’t playing so much,” O’Connor said.
“It was quite difficult for him to get into a groove but starting the game and kicking goals I think has certainly helped with his confidence.”
As for whether reports of a big-money move to Toulon next year are true, Goromaru offered no comment – and in the unlikely event the Reds want to keep him, he says there are no offers on the table.
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.