Japanese World Cup star Ayumu Goromaru is expected to join French side Toulon next season, reports said on Tuesday, following a low-key stint with the Queensland Reds.
The fullback, who is known for his distinctive goal-kicking stance and has a huge following in Japan, will likely play in the French Top 14 from August, the Sports Nippon tabloid said in its online edition.
Japan’s Kyodo News said the 30-year-old has already reached a basic agreement and a final deal could be announced this month with the three-time European champions.
Goromaru’s parent club Yamaha Jubilo was not immediately available for comment. The Reds denied earlier reports in February that he was set to move to Toulon.
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.
Some media reports rated him as the world’s best paid player after he snubbed Japan’s new Sunwolves team to join Super Rugby rivals the Reds this season.
But Goromaru has struggled for game time and made only his second start in Saturday’s 29-14 loss to the Hurricanes, landing three penalties.
Such is Goromaru’s profile in Japan that he had a life-sized bronze statue and had a baby giraffe named after him, as well as being given the title “Master of Ninjas”.
Fans have also flocked to a three metre high (9 feet) Buddhist statue in Gifu Prefecture because its clasped hands look like those of their hero when he lines up kicks.