HONG KONG – Japan national team rugby coach Jamie Joseph on Friday said he had definitively shut the door on Ayumu Goromaru for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, ending any hopes of a repeat of the 2015 heroics that made him a cult figure.
Goromaru, 32, was estimated as the world’s richest player following his performances in 2015, when the Brave Blossoms shocked two-time champion South Africa during their best World Cup to date.
A bronze statue and a “Master of Ninjas” title were among the honors bestowed on the goal-kicking fullback, who also had a giraffe named after him at Hamamatsu zoo.
Goromaru-mania reached a peak when fans flocked to see a Buddha statue said to be striking a similar pose to the pinup’s pre-kick routine.
But after unsuccessful stints with the Queensland Reds and Toulon, and a subsequent return to the Top League’s Yamaha Jubilo, Goromaru’s star has fallen.
Asked whether Goromaru would be considered for next year, Joseph told AFP: “He hasn’t been in the picture since the (2015) World Cup.”
Joseph is now turning his attention to Japan’s upcoming tests against Italy and Georgia, after being drafted in to help out with Super Rugby’s Sunwolves this season.
He boldly targeted the World Cup quarterfinals next year for the Brave Blossoms, who have never reached the knockout stages despite winning three pool games in 2015.
“We want to make the top eight. We think we can do that,” Joseph said in an interview in Hong Kong, where the Sunwolves play the Western Stormers on Saturday.
“We played some tier-one teams in the last couple of years. We should have beaten France in France in November last year, we drew with them.
“So on our day we can be good. It’s different from the Super Rugby competition: we play four days of footie, it’s a tournament, very different. So that’s our goal.”
The New Zealander said he wasn’t sure if he would continue his role with the Sunwolves next season, when the countdown begins in earnest toward Asia’s first rugby World Cup.
“I haven’t made that decision yet,” he said, when asked whether he would remain at the helm of the Sunwolves.
“Taking the Sunwolves was never part of the original plan,” the former Otago Highlanders coach added.
“I came (to Asia) to coach Japan but for many reasons we decided to get involved with the Sunwolves, me and my coaching team, to accelerate our development and understanding of the way we want to play the game in the World Cup.”