Goromaru v Sunwolves set to draw big crowd
Sydney - Japanese poster boy Ayumu Goromaru
is expected to draw one of Reds' biggest crowds of the Super Rugby season when
he faces the Tokyo-based Sunwolves on Saturday.
The 30-year-old fullback and Hendrik Tui
will line up against some of their Japanese international team-mates when the
Sunwolves play in Australia for the first time.
World Cup hero Goromaru controversially
snubbed the newly formed Sunwolves to join the Reds, but he has struggled to
hold down a regular spot.
Goromaru will make only his third start on
Saturday, with regular fullback Karmichael Hunt sidelined with a groin injury.
While Goromaru enjoys celebrity status in
Japan, he is less well known in Brisbane where the Reds compete with sports
like rugby league and Australian Rules for attention.
He said this week it had been a tough
season in the newly expanded Super Rugby competition, which he joined from
Japan's domestic league.
"It's really been a trial by
fire," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"There are a lot of different aspects
to this league, which I haven't experienced before. For example, the long
travel to South Africa and then backing up for a game the following week.
"The physicality of the league and
just the level of play... I've learned a lot and it's been a great
Goromaru shot to stardom after he kicked 24
points in the Brave Blossoms' 34-32 stunning upset win over South Africa at the
World Cup last year.
This is likely to be Goromaru's only season
with the Reds amid reports that he will head to big-spending French club Toulon
later this year.
But there is high Japanese interest in
Goromaru's progress in Australia and media conferences conducted in Japanese
are regularly held after Reds matches, while the club's merchandise sales in
Japan have soared.
"I think we all learned a lot from our
appearance in the World Cup and I think it's a great opportunity for us to show
the Australian public Japanese rugby," Goromaru said.
Reds officials are expecting several tour
groups to arrive from Japan in time for Saturday's match.
"The Sunwolves are a quality outfit
who were unlucky not to beat the Stormers last week and had a great win over
the Jaguares recently in Tokyo," Reds co-interim head coach Matt O'Connor