Legendary Japanese fullback Ayumu Goromaru has announced his retirement from the game.
The 34 year-old hangs up his boots after 57 appearances for his country, saying he hoped he had lent a hand in transforming rugby in Japan for the better.
He was part of the team under the guidance of Eddie Jones which made history with a maiden victory over the Springboks in Brighton in the 2015 World Cup.
Goromaru highlighted dealing with fame as a major as a major challenge in his career.
“It made me very uneasy to be the focus of everyone’s attention, but I felt it was my obligation to help spread the word about rugby in a country where it hadn’t been so popular,” he said.
“It was tough at first, but once I got my head around it, I realised I had been given a great opportunity. Even if there was just one person who got into rugby because of my pose, it would have made it all worthwhile.”
After the “Miracle of Brighton”, as it became known, Goromaru was suddenly hot property and was signed by the Reds for the 2016 Super Rugby season before joining up with Toulon shortly thereafter. His stints on foreign soil did not prove great successes, however. He currently plies his trade with Japanese club Yamaha Jubilo.
Goromaru made special mention of Eddie Jones, saying that he was “someone who changed my life in a big way” and exhibited excitement regarding his country’s fixture against England in the 2023 World Cup pool stages, saying it was a great opportunity to show their old boss how far they have come as a rugby nation.
“Japan’s opponents have now been decided, and by a twist of fate they’re playing Eddie Jones’s England,” he said.
“It feels like destiny. Beating England, the birthplace of rugby, would increase rugby’s popularity even more in Japan, and I want the players to set that target and really go for it.
“Japanese rugby has changed a lot in the past few years,” said Goromaru.
“The national team is much stronger than it was when I was a kid. Individually, you have Japanese players like Kotaro Matsushima and Kazuki Himeno going overseas.
“That’s something I could have never even dreamed of when I was young.”