The Queensland Reds have scored a major coup by signing Japanese World Cup hero Ayumu Goromaru for next year’s Super Rugby season.
Goromaru became a household name in Japan last month when he led his country to a shock 34-32 win over South Africa in what has been described as the biggest upset in World Cup history.
Goromaru, a fullback, scored 24 points in that match and twice received man-of-the-match honours at the tournament and is now seen as a national hero in Japan.
Goromaru, who is also Japan’s all-time leading pointscorer, has spent his entire career playing in his country’s Top League but is looking forward to testing himself in Super Rugby next year when Japan will also field a team for the first time.
“I have followed the Queensland Reds for many years and am looking forward to joining the squad and meeting my new teammates,” said Goromaru, who will link up with the Reds when his Top League commitments with Yamaha Jbilo are completed in February next year.
The 29-year-old replaces former All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson, who has moved to the Melbourne Rebels, as Queensland’s designated foreign player.
That rules out a move for an international player to replace departed five-eighth Quade Cooper, who was unveiled as a Toulon player on Wednesday.
Young gun Jake McIntyre, who won his second National Rugby Championship title with Brisbane City on the weekend, is set to become Queensland’s first-choice No.10 next year.
But Goromaru’s razor-sharp ability with the boot means he is likely to take over the kicking duties for the Reds.
“His recent goal-kicking percentage sits at or above 80% – an area in which the Reds are looking to improve in 2016,” Reds executive general manager Daniel Herbet said.
“He is a quality player who will add depth to our outside backs for 2016.
“Both of our assistant coaches, Nick Stiles and Matt O’Connor, have coached against Ayumu in Japan and have said he is a player that worries any opposition.”
Goromaru will be joined by another member of the Brave Blossoms, New Zealand-born Hendrik Tui, who remains a Reds player under a scheme which allows each Super Rugby teams to sign one player each from a developing nation.
Both players will get a rare opportunity to play against their countrymen when the Reds host new Japanese franchise the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium on May 21.