Scepticism surrounds Goromaru’s Toulon move

Date published: June 8 2016

Ayumu Goromaru's tumble from World Cup darling to sceptics' favourite target has been one of the odder storylines of the year.

Following an underwhelming season with the Reds, the Japan full-back will now spend next season in Toulon after the club announced having captured his signature on Wednesday.

Goromaru will attend the club's Top 14 semi-final in two weeks' time and be unveiled to the global media a few days later on June 21. The timing of that event is yet to be confirmed, but you can bet it won't happen in the French afternoon when Japan is asleep.

The addition of Spanish, Chinese and Japanese language options to the club's official website this season underline where the direction Mourad Boudjellal sees Toulon heading in over the next few years.

Make no mistake, the acquisition of Goromaru is every bit a part of that planning to make the three-time European champions a globally recognised force.

The likelihood of him starting big matches for Toulon however is slim with Leigh Halfpenny returning to full fitness and contracted for a further season at the Stade Félix Mayol, after one to forget having spent the best part of it on the physio's table.

Even without Halfpenny available, Toulon still have options at full-back in James O'Connor, Drew Mitchell and Tom Taylor to cover the departure of Delon Armitage to Lyon.

Of primary concern though has to be Goromaru's communication with his team-mates. For all of the multiple nationalities at Toulon, learning to speak French is still compulsory. 

Part of the reason Goromaru has spent so much time with a bib on at Suncorp is down to the fact that his English wasn't up to standard.

Who knows how long his run in the starting XV would have continued with that issue seemingly pushed to one side under Richard Graham, who started Goromaru in the first two games of the season before getting the sack.

For interim bosses Nick Stiles and Matt O'Connor there has been no need for airs and graces. So when O'Connor, asked by Japanese media what Goromaru needed to improve after being dropped to the bench back in March, replied with the following – "Probably his ability to speak English" – the omens were never good.

It's hardly wide of the mark to foresee similar language problems in France. At the time of writing Goromaru is set to become the only Japanese player in the entire Top 14 next season.

Had Toulon swooped for Goromaru straight after the Rugby World Cup then this move would be met with less trepidation, potential red flags ignored. 

He arrived at the Reds as the superstar tasked with adding some respectability to what looked set to be an embarrasing season with a young group coping with the loss of several veterans. Except the script has twisted, with Goromaru now unrequired and being billed in some quarters as one of Super Rugby's worst signings, while the Reds under O'Connor and Stiles have played above expectations.

That's some plummet from being the architect of the greatest rugby upset of all time against the Springboks and being named in the Rugby World Cup 2015 Dream Team.

Those accomplishments, along with more than 50 Test caps and over 700 international points, reaffirm how good Goromaru actually is, something that's been forgotten during his stint with the Reds.

Will his form or ability though matter as much as the fact that Goromaru is a Toulon player?

Off the back of the Rugby World Cup he would have felt like another player capable of contributing to the club's success. Now he feels more like just another globally recognised name in a squad packed full of them. An asset, rather than a necessary star.