Rugby he­roes give £1,000 to help fu­ture of Welsh game

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - BEN JAMES ben.james@waleson­line.co.uk

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.”

GETTY

Billy Vu­nipola and Mako Vu­nipola cel­e­brate af­ter Sara­cens’ Cham­pi­ons Cup vic­tory over Cler­mont Au­vergne

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