Rugby heroes give £1,000 to help future of Welsh game
SPONSORS for junior rugby tend to throw up the same usual suspects with a local building firm or skip hire business tending to front up the cash to appear on the youngsters’ kit.
But what about being sponsored by two current England internationals?
Seems far-fetched to say the least, but that is the reality for Pontypool and District Schools RFU after Saracens team-mates and brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola offered their financial support.
The duo have given £1,000 of new kit as a debt of gratitude to the man who introduced them to rugby, retired headmaster and ex-Abertillery prop Dawson Jones.
Jones, who signed their dad Fe’ao for Pontypool in 1998, told the Rugby Paper how the England internationals had insisted on the gesture, calling it “pay back time”.
He said: “We were talking to a prospective sponsor who was willing to pay £1,000 provided they could get a photo of the three local Pontypool boys who’d all been picked for the Lions – Billy, Mako and Taulupe Faletau.
“I rang Billy for a chat. He didn’t have the time to do the photo but then he said: ‘I’ll sponsor you.’ And I said: ‘Pardon?’ He said: ‘Yes, I’ll do it – £1,000. Send me your bank details and the money will be in your account in 48 hours.’
“The money came through two days later. And when I called to thank him, he said: ‘No, thank you Uncle Daws. This is pay back time.’ That’s Billy and Mako for you, typical of the whole family’s generosity.
“They didn’t do this to get any publicity. It’s a terrific gesture and a great help and I think it’s only right that people should know about it.”
With the money – double what they receive from the Welsh Rugby Union – the Pontypools schools have bought water-proof coats for the 36-strong under-11 squad, which includes the Vunipola’s cousin James Talamia.
The coats feature both the Tongan and Welsh flag, as well as the message: ‘Supported by the Vunipola boys’.
The Vunipola brothers have been vocal in their admiration for Jones, with Billy writing in his recent autobiography: “He played a hugely significant role in my life, making me and my family so welcome.”
The number eight also penned a letter to his mentor revealing how he would never play for England. Of course, he did go on to break that promise and wear the Red Rose, with the issue still a frustrating one for Jones.
“I’ve still got Billy’s letter and every time I speak to Mako the accent is still unmistakably Gwent.
“Wales had their opportunity but someone blew it.”
Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola celebrate after Saracens’ Champions Cup victory over Clermont Auvergne