• Kyodo, AFP-Jiji


Former Japan fullback Ayumu Goromaru, who starred for the Brave Blossoms at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, will retire after the upcoming Top League season, his club Yamaha Jubilo said Wednesday.

Goromaru rocketed to stardom after scoring 24 points for Japan in their famous 34-32 victory over South Africa, dubbed the Miracle of Brighton, at the 2015 World Cup in England.

The 34-year-old, who earned 57 caps for Japan and had spells in Australia and France with the Reds and Toulon, respectively, will hold a press conference next Wednesday.

A native of Fukuoka Prefecture, Goromaru joined Yamaha out of university rugby powerhouse Waseda.

He made his test debut while still a student at Waseda in a 24-18 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo.

His goal kicking and steadiness under the high ball made him an indispensable member of the Eddie Jones-coached side who raised rugby's profile to new heights in Japan at the 2015 tournament, where only bonus points kept them from the quarterfinals.

Goromaru's distinctive goal-kicking stance — in which he clasps his hands together while lining up his kick — became a media talking point and was mimicked by young fans. "Goromaru-mania" even prompted fans to flock to see a Buddha statue said to be in a similar pose to the one Goromaru struck in his pre-kick routine.

His rugged good looks helped him grow a huge following, with a bronze statue and a "Master of Ninjas" title among the honors bestowed on the fullback, who also had a giraffe named after him at a Japanese zoo.

Despite winning 57 caps for Japan, he missed out on a place in the national squad when the country hosted the 2019 World Cup — a tournament that saw the Brave Blossoms reach the last eight for the first time in their history.

Jones, who is currently head coach of England's national team, bemoaned Goromaru's on-field fall from grace following the 2015 World Cup, accusing the player of spending more time filming commercials than practicing his kicks.

After missing selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, Goromaru provided expert commentary for television coverage of the tournament.

The 2021 Top League season is scheduled to kick off Jan. 16 and conclude in May. It will be the final season before the launch of a new professional competition the following year.

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