The New England Free Jacks has Japanese international Kensuke Hatakeyama for the second year of his contract for 2021. The 35-year-old tighthead prop is 5’10” and 245 lbs.
Kensuke started the first and last matches of the truncated 2020 Major League Rugby season, as an injury curtailed his return sooner. He is a force in the scrum and his leadership is invaluable.
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
“Konnichiwa! I’m looking forward to returning to the Free Jacks in 2021”, commented Kensuke. “The 2020 season was a difficult scenario for the league and around the world in general. Our mission in 2021 to win and give hope in the midst of difficulties. We will do our best, please continue to support us!”
Off the field, Hatakeyama has become a very influential figure and passionate representative for the Japan Rugby Football Union. Hatakeyama was appointed a representative director of the Japanese Rugby Football Association in July 2017 and served as a commentator and ambassador for the sport in Japan during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in his home nation.
Hatakeyama hails from Kesennuma in the Myagi prefecture and has earned the nickname “Flying Yokozuna” (or “Flying Prop”) for his dynamic and exciting style of play.
“Kensuke is a true legend and gentleman of the game,” commented Free Jacks Performance Manager, Tom Kindley. “Kenny proved a class act throughout the 2020 season, consistently personifying what it means to be a professional through his daily behaviors and getting stuck in with our academy system.
“Kenny always has a smile on his face and regardless of language barrier, finds a way to make teammates laugh and impart his wealth of knowledge. His point of difference is his mastery of set-piece where he draws on experience to out-think opposition and excellent body shape to frustrate and physically bigger opposition.”
Kenny has most certainly become a fan favorite in New England and the Hatakeyama family will be welcomed back with open arms in 2021.