The Seattle Seawolves added Japanese international Akihito Yamada for the 2021 Major League Rugby season after a trade to the Seawolves from NTT Communications Shining Arcs for future considerations. The 35-year-old win is 5’11” and 200 lbs.
“NTT Communications Shining Arcs believe that this opportunity will bring about a positive impact on both the Japanese and US rugby communities and are always striving to create international connections to better our club and rugby culture in Japan. The Seawolves are thrilled to create a connection with NTT Communications Shining Arcs and continue building a strong Japanese connection here in Seattle. Yamada’s move to Seattle mirrors a similar path as fellow Japanese athletes such as Ichiro Suzuki, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners. Yamada will be the second Japanese player to join Major League Rugby after prop Kensuke Hatakeyama of the New England Free Jacks.”
Yamada was born in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. He attended Kokura High School from 2001-2004, and then Keio University from 2004-2008. Yamada began his professional rugby career in Japan’s Top League with the Honda Heat in 2008 after playing for Keio University Rugby Football Club while pursuing his degree in Policy Management. Yamada played for Honda through 2010 before leaving for the Panasonic Wild Knights in the Top League from 2010-2019, where he made 103 appearances while scoring 455 points. During the 2012-2013 season, he scored 20 tries in 14 matches, which made him the league’s leading try scorer.
He played for Western Force in 2015 ahead of playing Super Rugby with the Sunwolves from 2016-2019. During the 2019-2020 season, he played with the NTT Communications Shining Arcs.
Yamada played for Japan’s U17 and then rugby sevens, before making his debut for Japan XVs on 15 November 2013 in a win against Russia at Colwyn Bay, Wales. He started twice at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. The last of his 25 tests, including 24 starts, was against Ireland on 24 November 2018 in Dublin. Yamada looked forward to being included in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He signed with Top 14 club Lyon on a two-month short-term loan in July 2019, but when he was not selected for the Rugby World Cup, he extended his time with the club through mid-October.
He now looks forward to a new experience in reuniting with former Sunwolves teammate Andrew Durutalo and playing for the Seattle Seawolves in 2021.
Seattle Seawolves Comments
“I am very excited to join the two-time MLR Champions. I have heard amazing things about the city of Seattle, and I know that they have been very welcoming towards Japanese athletes in the past,” said Yamada. “I am eager to start working together with the Seawolves members and hoping to meet the fans at Starfire Stadium soon!”