Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Walder: Japan the Land of the Rising Rugby Star; Falcons'attacking Coach Gives Thumbs-Up to Signing of Tight-Head Hatakeyama

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Walder: Japan the Land of the Rising Rugby Star; Falcons'attacking Coach Gives Thumbs-Up to Signing of Tight-Head Hatakeyama

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Smith @markismith50 www.facebook.com/chroniclerugby

DAVE Walder says Newcastle Falcons are right to tap into the growing Japanese rugby market, having completed the signing of prop-forward Kensuke Hatakeyama.

The 30-year-old tight-head starred for the Brave Blossoms during the Rugby World Cup and already has 72 test appearances to his name, Walder familiar with the Japanese scene having ended his own career with a twoyear spell in Tokyo.

Playing for the Mitsubishi Dynaboars side in Japan's second division, the former Falcons, Wasps and England fly-half will be Hatakeyama's attack coach when the Suntory Sungoliath man lands on Tyneside tomorrow.

The timing of his arrival means he will play no part in Sunday's Premiership visit of Harlequins, Walder saying: "As a club we have a lot of people who have played out in Japan, and it is definitely a country whose rugby is being taken more seriously now.

"Myself, Scott MacLeod, Mike Delany, Nili Latu, Tood Clever, Kane Thompson and Alesana Tuilagi have all played over there, and it is really a country on the rise in rugby terms."

Japan's national side has climbed to 10th in the world rankings after a World Cup which saw them beat South Africa, Samoa and USA, and their coach Eddie Jones has recently been snapped up by England.

Walder, whose team-mates at Mitsubishi included Welsh great Shane Williams, said: "Japanese rugby has been seen as a bit of a laughing stock by much of the world, but even when I was there they had some top players in their league.

"A lot of it is financially driven because overseas guys can earn big money by going there for a few months, and the way the calendar works means they can tie it in with playing Super Rugby.

"The top four or five teams in Japan would be competitive in the bottom half of the English Premiership. The thing they struggle with a little bit is the depth beyond that, but the national team doing so well at the World Cup has sparked a big wave of interest.

"It is a fast game over there. It is really enjoyable to play in and guys are prepared to have a crack from anywhere. …

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