Japanese rugby star made a ninja master

Japanese rugby star made a ninja master

Japanese rugby pin-up Ayumu Goromaru, one of the stars of the World Cup, is set to strike fear into opponents after being made a certified "Master of Ninjas."

Ayumu Goromaru

The Japan Ninja Council said it awarded him the honour Wednesday because the full-back's kicking pose -- hands clasped together, index fingers pointing upwards and slightly squatting -- evoked images of the ancient stealth warriors.

The 29-year-old played a key role as Japan's Brave Blossoms upset the odds by posting three wins at the recent World Cup in England, including a stunning 34-32 victory over two-time champions South Africa in their opening game.

Goromaru's talismanic kicking helped elevate him to hero status at home after further victories over Samoa and the United States, as Japan narrowly missed out on a place in the quarter-finals.

"I'm glad to be awarded the title of ninja at a time when Japanese rugby players are earning attention from overseas," said Goromaru, who will play for the Queensland Reds when the new Super Rugby season begins in February.

"At the World Cup, we tried to give ourselves ninja bodies to take on the world," he told NHK television. "I'd like to be able to transform my body so I can move like a ninja."

Ninjas were covert agents in feudal Japan, skilled in espionage, sabotage, guerrilla warfare and assassination.

It is not the first honour for Goromaru since he rocketed to mega-stardom in Japan.

A life-size bronze statue of the player was unveiled in Tokyo last month as part of the city's Christmas illuminations, while a baby giraffe at a zoo in Shizuoka prefecture was named after him.

His fans have also flocked to a three metre high (9 feet) Buddhist statue at a temple in Gifu Prefecture because its hands look like those of their hero. - AFP

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