Rugby: Melbourne Rebels sign Japanese back Matsushima for Super Rugby season

Kotaro Matsushima is the fourth Japanese player to join the Rebels in recent years.
Kotaro Matsushima is the fourth Japanese player to join the Rebels in recent years.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan utility back Kotaro Matsushima has signed for Melbourne-based Super Rugby side the Rebels in a loan move, Suntory Goliath said on Friday.

The 22-year-old becomes the fourth Japanese player to join the Rebels in recent years following Shota Horie, Male Sa'u and Keita Inagaki.

"This will be a wonderful opportunity for me to test myself at this level," Matsushima told Suntory's official website. "I'm looking forward to making a positive contribution at the Rebels."

Matsushima, who failed to make much impact as part of the Waratahs squad last year, made his Japan debut in 2014 and played for the Brave Blossoms at last year's World Cup.

The South African-born speedster will join the Rebels for the start of the Super Rugby season later this month.

"We are delighted that Kotaro Matsushima will be involved in Super Rugby again this season," Suntory said in a statement. "We believe the challenge will benefit not only the player but Suntory and Japanese rugby."

Matsushima will be the sixth Japanese player to sign for an Australian or New Zealand Super Rugby side for the 2016 season, with Japan prop Hiroshi Yamashita also poised to join the Chiefs.

Pin-up Ayumu Goromaru, who shot to stardom after helping the perennial World Cup flops win three games in England, is arguably the most recognisable of the Japanese exports after signing for the Reds.

Japan captain Michael Leitch plays for the Chiefs, Sa'u the Blues and Hendrik Tui will line up alongside full-back Goromaru in Queensland.