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Rugby star’s special message

A look back into the 'Times' archives as Chris Pennell (front row, third left) celebrates Millington Primary School's Gilpin Cup success in 1997 with team-mates plus Stephen Blevins (back left, Millington teacher) and Willie Gribben (organiser).INPT22-130

A look back into the 'Times' archives as Chris Pennell (front row, third left) celebrates Millington Primary School's Gilpin Cup success in 1997 with team-mates plus Stephen Blevins (back left, Millington teacher) and Willie Gribben (organiser).INPT22-130

England rugby international Chris Pennell took time out from the tour of New Zealand to send a special message to his former Portadown school.

Chris was handed his England debut on June 7 in the First Test, joining play in front of the 47,195 Auckland crowd during a 20-15 defeat.

The Worcester Warriors fullback also entered a midweek uncapped meeting with Crusaders in Christchurch just before the hour mark and proved impressive across a cameo display.

Stephen Blevins - the current Orchard County Primary School principal and Chris’ former coach at Millington - sent a message of congratulations over Twitter praising his “excellent contribution” and joking “you learn to tackle like that at Chambers Park?”.

Chris sent a response back: “Mr B! Sorry for slow reply... Thanks for your messages, means a lot! Very fond memories of my time at Millington!!.

The 27-year-old rugby professional spent two years in Portadown during the late 1990s as work commitments resulted in the Pennell family relocating to the area.

Chris was a pupil at Millington Primary School and also spent time at Chambers Park under Willie Gribben’s mini-rugby programme.

“Chris was joint captain of our Gilpin Cup-winning side in 1997 and from day one it was obvious he had natural talent,” said Stephen. “Back in my time at Millington the pupils would call me Mr B so it was a nice touch that Chris made reference to that in his Twitter reply.

“The fact that he mentioned his fond memories of Millington was great to hear.

“Chris grabbed his chance during the New Zealand tour and was especially impressive in the game with Crusaders.

“There was real warmth in his response and, after so many years, that was nice to see.”

 

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