TWO South Gloucestershire schools are celebrating the success of former pupils who made their Six Nations debuts last weekend.
Olly Kohn, who attended the Ridings School – now Winterbourne International Academy – won his first cap for Wales against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium, while former Castle School pupil Mako Vunipola featured in England’s win over Scotland at Twickenham.
Both of them were the first people from their respective schools to appear in the prestigious northern hemisphere tournament.
Kohn, 31, grew up in Winterbourne Down, where his parents Simon and Sherri still live, and plays for Harlequins, who he helped win the Aviva Premiership title last year having previously had two spells at Bristol.
The 6ft 7in, 21st 10lb lock only announced he was eligible for Wales through his grandfather last month and he was quickly named in their squad for the Six Nations, coming on for the final seven minutes of their 30-22 defeat to Ireland.
Winterbourne International Academy principal and keen Wales rugby supporter Rob Evans said: “We were thrilled to see ex-student Olly Kohn make his international debut for Wales against Ireland in this year’s Six Nations Tournament. “The considerable success of Olly provides real inspiration as to what our current students can achieve through hard work and dedication. “We look forward to Olly achieving further successes both with Wales and his club side Harlequins.”
Another second row, Dave Attwood, became the school’s first former student to play senior international rugby when he won two England caps in 2010 but he is yet to play in the Six Nations. Chief executive principal Dr Gibson added: “This is a fantastic achievement for Olly to represent Wales. We take great pride in his achievement, congratulate him on his success and look forward to seeing him represent Wales in the remainder of the Six Nations.”
Saracens prop Vunipola replaced Joe Marler for the final 22 minutes of England’s 38-18 win over Scotland and his old PE teacher Lloyd Spacey, who is still at The Castle School, was there to watch it.
He said: “I loved it and I was over the moon for him.
“He played well when he came on and hopefully he’ll get a start next week.”
Although former Thornbury youth player Rhys Oakley won two caps for Wales against Ireland and Scotland, 22-year-old Vunipola became the first member of the club to go on and play in the Six Nations and chairman Roy Black was delighted to see more history made.
He said: “We were very pleased to see him go on and very proud of him. We’re hoping his brother (Billy) is going to get there as well.”
That may happen soon as Billy trained with the senior squad for the first time this week after recovering from an ankle injury, and remained with the camp along with fellow No8 Thomas Waldrom ahead of the trip to Ireland, as former Dursley youth player Ben Morgan is doubtful due to an ankle problem.
Mako has retained his place and is set to win his sixth cap.