IT was fitting that Hounsdown school was represented at Twickenham on the day Dave Sisi played his first senior international at the home of England Rugby.

Sisi is still remembered fondly at the Totton comprehensive, where he was a senior prefect before embarking on his professional rugby career a decade ago.

Now a full international, he has given Hounsdown every reason to feel proud.

The 26-year-old won his fourth cap for Italy on what was a tough afternoon at Twickenham last Saturday, as England won 57-14.

But Sisi’s progress, despite a terrible run of injuries, has been an inspiration for many at his alma mater.

Before he came on as a 49th-minute replacement, with Italy trailing 36-7, Hounsdown pupil Tiernan Slowey unveiled the school’s new rugby shirt on the Twickenham turf. He was there because of Hounsdown’s involvement with the Rugby Football Union’s All Schools programme.

Hounsdown PE teacher Scott Bryant explained: “The RFU encourages schools to play rugby by sending down two or three coaches once a week and getting a few pupils up to Twickenham to work with Canterbury Clothing to produce a new school shirt.

“You get a set of 21 shirts for free and every now and then a pupil from every school that’s had a shirt made goes on the pitch to unveil it. It was an amazing coincidence that we unveiled ours when Dave Sisi was there with Italy.”

Romsey Advertiser: Hounsdown pupil Tiernan Slowey in the school's new rugby kit he unveiled at Twickenham on SaturdayHounsdown pupil Tiernan Slowey in the school's new rugby kit he unveiled at Twickenham on Saturday

Saints fan Sisi used to play as a goalkeeper for West Totton Wanderers but Hounsdown happened to increase their focus on rugby when he arrived at the school in 2004.

“When our old head of department, Stewart Magee, came to the school he really pushed rugby and David’s year group was the first that had the benefit of that,” explains Mr Bryant. “An emphasis was put on extra-curricular rugby and whenever there was a training session David would be there.

“He was dedicated, even at 12/13, and the fruits of that labour have been seen. He was always the stand-out player on either side in school matches so we nominated him for a Hampshire trial and that’s where it all started. He soon signed for London Irish and had the odd afternoon off to play for their academy.”

Romsey Advertiser: David Sisi (back row, fifth from left) with Tottonians U16s ten years agoDavid Sisi (back row, fifth from left) with Tottonians U16s ten years ago

Romsey Advertiser: David Sisi playing for a Tottonians junior side as a 14-year-oldDavid Sisi playing for a Tottonians junior side as a 14-year-old

Sisi, who also credits Tottonians RFC colts coaches Gavin Williams and Jeff Rawlins for his early progress, became London Irish’s youngest player when he made his debut at 17 (a record since broken by Anthony Watson).

He was a key player as England won the U20s World Championship in 2013, when his teammates included Henry Slade, an opponent on Saturday.

Romsey Advertiser: David Sisi (left) after winning the World U20 Championship with England in 2013David Sisi (left) after winning the World U20 Championship with England in 2013

But his move to Bath that summer was followed by four years inteerrupted by injuries.

Sisi is now thriving in his second season with Zebre in northern Italy where many of his extended family live (he qualifies for Italy through his paternal grandparents, who emigrated to England during WWII).

He excelled in the back row as a schoolboy and played as a flanker for most of his professional career in England.

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has deployed him at lock, due to Sisi’s mobility and ball-carrying ability on top of Italy’s relative back-row strength in depth.

Romsey Advertiser: Hounsdown School PE teacher Scott BryantHounsdown School PE teacher Scott Bryant

“He’s a powerhouse so he’s like a fourth back-row player for them if he’s in the second row,” continued Mr Bryant. “We couldn’t be prouder of him as a school. Lots of the staff were here when he was and we were all so chuffed when he got that first cap. He was the talk of the staff room on the Monday morning.

“He was amazing at school - so enthusiastic but also mature. When he was in Year 11 he helped coach our Year 7 team. He was always the sort of lad who will make the most of every opportunity, work hard and go from strength to strength.”

Italy continue their Six Nations campaign against France in Rome on Saturday (12.30pm).