At three o’clock on 31 May 1995, at Free State stadium, Bloomfontein, Japan faced Ireland in a rugby World Cup Pool C match.
As the match kicked off in front of 15,000 spectators, Japan fly half Sejii Hirao was about to play his thirty fifth and final international match for Japan.
Born in Kyoto on 21 January 1963, Hirao went on to play in three rugby world cups, his first as a nineteen year old in 1987, as Japanese captain in 1991, and finally in South Africa 1995.
Sadly Sejii Hirao passed away on 20 October 2016, at the ridiculously young age of 53, in hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness.
One of the most popular Japanese players of all time, he was known in Japan as “Mr Rugby” he was so proud and honoured that his home country was chosen to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
After graduating from university in Japan he spent 1985 in England where he played for Richmond, following his joyous sojourn in Surrey he returned home and became Japan national coach from 1997 to 2000.
An esteemed member of the world rugby hall of fame, he was looking forward to his country hosting the next rugby World Cup, in 2019, with a mixture of intense pride and excitement.
As for that rugby World Cup match in 1995 at Bloomfontein, Sejii Hirao scored a try after fifty nine minutes, a match which Ireland went on to win 50-28.
Sadly Sejii will have to watch the tournament from a heavenly viewpoint but there is no doubt his shadow will cast an earthly warmth over Rugby World Cup 2019.