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Japan fullback Ayumu Goromaru is eager to be a Japanese pioneer in French rugby as his move to Toulon draws near.

In joining the star-studded French Top 14 side, which boasts Kiwi center Ma’a Nonu and South African wing Bryan Habana in its ranks, Goromaru is in for another huge challenge following his maiden yet underwhelming Super Rugby campaign with the Reds.

“Until now, it may have been that France was a place where (Japanese) guys longed to play,” the 30-year-old Goromaru said Thursday. “But by my going, I hope others will make it a goal to play there and at some point it will become a natural destination.

“It’s a team that has assembled top players. I’ll aim to take in as much as I can and become a better player.”

Goromaru joined the Reds following Japan’s impressive performance at last year’s World Cup in England, where he scored 58 points in four matches. For the Reds, however, he was limited to 30 points in eight games.

He suffered a right-shoulder injury against the Sunwolves on May 21 and underwent season-ending surgery, but the former Yamaha Jubilo player said he has learned from the experience.

“I feel that I had to make more of a case for myself after jumping into a new environment where no one knew me,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking I’d get much playing time to start with, and I knew I was in for a tough battle. But I do have regrets for not taking chances.”

There were, however, plenty of positives for Goromaru, who had his first taste of club rugby away from Japan, while getting to spend precious time with his family.

“The individual skill level (in Super Rugby) is high and the pace of the game is really fast. The tackles are hard — even from smaller players,” he said.

“There weren’t many things I felt were tough, though. I really enjoyed the whole thing. I hadn’t had any time with my family for the past four years, but we got to do things like watching rugby league together.”

Upon joining the Reds in February, Goromaru said he would have no regrets when he retires after already having achieved more than he ever imagined. But with the new chapter in Europe starting in August, he has changed his tune somewhat.

“It would be sad if I were to retire without going to France,” he said. “I wanted to have another challenge (abroad). When I do that perhaps I’ll have different feelings.”

Habana left off Rio squad

AFP-JIJI

Former World Rugby Player of the Year Bryan Habana was overlooked Thursday when South Africa named a 12-man squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics sevens tournament.

Club commitments with French giant Toulon limited the seven-a-side appearances of the Springbok winger, who has scored 320 points in 117 tests.

Now 33, Habana was part of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad and his electric pace made him a feared international opponent for more than a decade.

He played in the 2015 World Cup in England, where South Africa finished third, but was not part of the squad for a 2-1 home series win over Ireland last month.

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