The New England Free Jacks signed Kensuke Hatakeyama for the 2020 and 2021 Major League Rugby seasons. The 34-year-old tighthead prop is 5’10” and 253 lbs.
Kensuke is from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan and attended Sendai Ikuei High School. He played rugby and basketball in high school and was selected to the High School National Team and the Japanese U17 National teams.
He then attended Waseda University in Tokyo and was a leader in achieving National Championships while there.
Following his graduation in 2008, he played for the Suntory Sungoliath since 2008 making 163 appearances for the team. He also made 7 appearances for the Newcastle Falcons in 2016.
Since his debut for the Japanese National team against the USA at Nagoya on November 16, 2008, he has earned 78 caps. His last test was against Fiji at Vannes, France on November 26, 2016. He also played in the Rugby World Cup in both 2011 and in 2015.
Kensuke is the 4th most capped Japanese National Team player and the most capped in the front row. He helped the Suntory Sungoliath achieve 4 Top League Championships and 5 All Japan Championship titles.
New England Free Jacks Comments
“I am grateful and honored to join the Free Jacks in MLR. I hope to make a big impact representing myself and Japanese rugby and see this opportunity as a pioneering chance to build the profile of rugby in Japan and the United States,” Kensuke said of his move.
He is currently representing the city of Tokyo at the Rugby World Cup as a Special Supporter at this year’s Tournament and is an active commentator and ambassador for the sport in Japan.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us and Kensuke,” said Free Jacks head coach Josh Smith. “Kenny is a very talented player, a strong scrummager, and an enthusiastic leader. It is amazing to be able to bring in a player with the level of experience and quality that Kensuke has, and we are thrilled to welcome him to New England where we are building the professional game.”
The 34-year-old has earned the nickname “Flying Yokozuna” (or “Flying Prop”) for his dynamic and exciting style of play. While continuing his playing career, Kenny has also looked to build the game of rugby in Japan. In 2017 he was appointed a Representative Director of the Japanese Rugby Football Association to support rugby players and athletes across Japan. His leadership and love of rugby will continue to be applied to growing the game in the community here in New England.
Kenny will be joining the Free Jacks at the commencement of pre-season training this December and we are looking forward to welcoming Kenny into the New England community.