TALENTED sportsman and retired teacher John Cooling has died following a long illness. He was 68.

He was a popular sports teacher at Heathfield School until his retirement a number of years ago.

JC played more than 150 matches for Taunton Rugby Club until he was forced to hang up his boots in 1976 due to a recurring shoulder injury.

He had made his senior debut for the county town club's B team in September 1966 at the age of just 14.

Unable to play any more, John took to coaching the team, which complemented his daytime role at Heathfield.

He brought success to the club, who under him won the Somerset County Cup for the first time in its 110-year history in 1985/86 and the prestigious Bass Merit Table.

John was also a talented local cricketer who was a prolific run scorer.

John leaves a wife, Gill, children Zoe, Greg and Robert and grandchildren.

His brother Keith is also a Taunton rugby stalwart.

A Taunton Rugby Club spokesman said: "Our condolences go out to Gill and family at this very sad time."

The funeral will take place at Taunton Deane Crematorium on Wednesday, February 26 at 1pm.