THORNBURY RFC’s most famous sons, Billy and Mako Vunipola, have dug into their own pockets and made a sizeable donation to the old Welsh rugby union district where they played the game as kids before moving to the English side of the Severn Bridge.

And Thornbury chairman Michael Tinney said it was typical of the generosity of the Vunipola brothers, who turned out for Thornbury Broncos as teenagers before going on to join European Champions Cup winners Saracens, that they remembered their roots.

England number eight Billy received a call from his old coach Dawson Jones, at Pontypool and District Schools RU, to say a potential sponsor wanted a photograph with him, brother Mako and their cousin, Bath and British Lions back row Taulupe Faletau, in exchange for a thousand pounds as they had all been selected for last summer’s Lions tour of New Zealand.

Jones was the man who signed the brother’s father, Fe’ao, when he brought the family across to Wales to expand his rugby career.

In fact, the former Abertillery prop, awarded an MBE in 2013 for services to schools rugby, was also taxi, kit supplier and mentor to all three players, who still call him ‘Uncle Daws’.

Billy and Mako could not make it for the photograph, they told The Rugby Paper, but, instead of losing the sponsor, Billy told Jones they would back the team for that thousand pounds.

Jones added: “He asked me for my bank details and said the money would be there 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 payback time’.”

As a result, the Pontypool Schools Rugby Union 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 which says: ‘Supported by the Vunipola boys'.

Tinney said the two brothers always remembered who had helped them up the ladder towards the ultimate status as international rugby players they now occupy.

The Thornbury chairman said: “They demonstrated that earlier this year by coming to us.”

The brothers and the club enjoyed a fantastic day back in February where youngsters and fans from the town came out in their hundreds to see welcome them back after a number of years away.

Tinney said: “They remember their roots and it shows a lot about them as individuals and rugby players.”

The brothers were not seeking publicity, said Jones, but he wished to let everyone know about it.

Tinney added: “I am sure it was never on their mind what they would get out of it. We are part of a community. They are tremendous ambassadors for our club and maintain that to this day without need for recognition.”

Indeed, Tinney said Mako had, this season, contacted Thornbury for a special message. “Geoff Sprackman was his old coach and it was his 60th birthday recently. We contacted Mako about it and he sent Geoff a message on a tweet to congratulate him.”

Billy is currently out of action for another two months after undergoing knee surgery but Mako is likely to be on England international duty this Saturday when national coach Eddie Jones’ men play Argentina at Twickenham.