Rugby union: Japan star Goromaru begins Toulon training after inking 1-year contract

TOULON, France (AFP) - Japan World Cup star Ayumu Goromaru began training for the first time on Tuesday with his new French rugby club Toulon.

France's wealthiest club have signed Goromaru on a one-year deal with a one-year extension on option.

"There was no reason to refuse an offer to play here," the 30-year-old full-back said as he was officially presented to the press.

"There isn't a club like Toulon anywhere else in the world. It's a big challenge but one which will be worth it."

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said the decision to sign Goromaru was purely sporting and not a bid to break into the Japanese and Asian market.

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. The full-back, who is known for his distinctive goal-kicking stance, has a huge following in Japan.

"Of course it provides a window on Asia but we don't have the means to pay just for a window," said Boudjellal.

"The player's qualities were taken into account, we signed him for his qualities as a player and as a scorer."

The Toulon boss said that Goromaru would have his work cut out as he competes with Wales star Leigh Halfpenny for a full-back place.

"He'll be competing against Leigh Halfpenny for the back post. Ayumu is a player who can be decisive, above all when Leigh is absent during the Six Nations and the November series," he said.

"We're very happy to have signed him. We spotted him during the World Cup against South Africa, a match which marked a turning point in world rugby. It's the new rugby. Japan have become a major nation in this sport."

After the World Cup, Goromaru left his club Yamaha Jubilo to play Super League rugby with Queensland Reds in Australia, but he played just eight games.

"When I played in Japan it was almost guaranteed for me to play at back," the player explained.

"In Australia there was more competition and I wasn't at all known. But in this environment, with this rivalry it was refreshing for me. I can't wait to experience this challenge again here."

After the traditional medical, Goromaru, who is recovering from a right shoulder injury, will head back to Japan before returning for the new season in September.

Toulon, who were edged out by Racing 92 in the European Cup quarter-finals, take on their rivals again in the Top 14 final in Barcelona on Friday.