Seawolves Welcome Japanese Wing Akihito Yamada to Major League Rugby


Tukwila, Washington (April 5, 2021) – The Seattle Seawolves are excited to announce the signing former Brave Blossom and NTT Communications Shining Arcs wing, Akihito Yamada. The wing was traded to the Seawolves from NTT Communications Shining Arcs for future considerations.


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 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. He stayed within the domestic competition in 2010 but made a club change to the Panasonic Wild Knights. The wing continued to develop with the Wild Knights and had a standout season in 2012-13 with 20 tries across 14 games, becoming the league’s top scorer. As a member of the national team pathway since their U17’s and earning caps with Japan sevens, Yamada debuted for Japan’s senior side in November 2013 in a 40-13 victory over Russia after impressing on the professional stage. Yamada made the jump to Super Rugby for the 2015 season, signing with Australian club Western Force on a one-year contract. He was selected to Japan’s Rugby World Cup side in 2015 and was a part of Japan’s win that shocked the world, defeating South Africa, 34-32. The wing represented Japan on international duty 25 times and scored 19 tries. In 2016, he returned to Japan to join Super Rugby’s sole Japanese franchise, the Sunwolves, from 2016-2018. An opportunity to head to France and play for Lyon on a short team deal through October 2019 that only temporarily took Yamada away from Japan as he returned to join the NTT Communications Shining Arcs before the end of the year to compete in Japan’s Top League. Yamada’s experience, pace on both sides of the ball, and ability to find the try zone will only improve an already dangerous Seattle backline. You can watch some of Yamada’s highlights here.

“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!”

The Seattle Seawolves return to regular season play this weekend after a BYE, traveling to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Warriors (2-1). Kick off at Zions Bank Stadium will be at 6:00 PM PT on Saturday, April 10. Viewers inside the United States can tune in live on ROOT SPORTS and The Rugby Network. Viewers outside of the United States, including Japanese rugby fans, can tune in live on The Rugby Network.