Japan's Kensuke Hatakeyama to join Major League Rugby

Kensuke Hatakeyama has played 78 Tests for Japan
Kensuke Hatakeyama has played 78 Tests for Japan

Japan international Kensuke Hatakeyama is set to make his debut in the Major League Rugby after he was signed by Free Jacks for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Hatakeyama made his professional rugby debut with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath and has racked up over 100 appearances since then while also had a brief stint with Newcastle Falcons in 2016.

“I am grateful and honored to join the Free Jacks in MLR,” said Kensuke in a statement released by the club.

"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".

The 34-year-old made his debut for Japan in 2008 and has featured in 78 Tests scoring 10 tries with his last appearance coming in 2016. He was also part of the 2011 and 2015 World Cup squads of Japan and is the fourth most-capped player for his country.

“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 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.”