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Around this time of year Barnard Castle School thoughts are often turning to Twickenham and the prospect of getting through the semi-finals of the Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup, a challenge they have confronted four times and accomplished three in recent seasons.
This year the Daily Mail RBS campaign did not reach that stage, but Twickenham has remained in focus thanks to three old boys who have been involved in England’s RBS 6 Nations Championship efforts.
England scrum-half Lee Dickson knows only too well the misery of losing at Twickenham in the final of the Daily Mail RBS Cup. He captained a ‘Barney’ side that went down 30-28 to Oakham in 2003, the first of the three occasions in five years that the school reached the final and came away empty handed.
The Northampton Saints No 9 is not the only Barnard Castle old boy in the England camp to have experienced such a set-back. Calum Clark, who is also part of the 32-man England Six Nations squad, was in the Barnard Castle squad beaten 24-23 by Warwick School in final of the competition back in 2007.
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Add Lee’s brother Karl Dickson, the Harlequins scrum-half, who was called up to the enlarged England squad earlier this week and the Barnard Castle contingent starts to invoke memories of earlier days, when the school was producing other England players who were to become household names in the world game.
Rob Andrew, the Underwood brothers Rory and Tony and Mathew Tait all progressed from their fledgling days at Barnard Castle to represent England, while Alex Tait and more recently Rory Clegg have gone on to Aviva Premiership honours.
The handsome track record of the school is a source of great pride to Director of Sport Martin Pepper:
“Barnard Castle School has a strong heritage of rugby success so it is very rewarding to see players that represented the school during their time here now representing their country with the same determination as when leading the school out at Twickenham during the Daily Mail Cup final.”
In all, 37 former pupils have played for their country, representing a total of six nations, and 13 are currently playing top flight rugby for Newcastle Falcons, Harlequins, Northampton Saints and London Irish.
Nor is the focus of attention solely on the senior England camp. Recently, the North of England Under 18 Schools & Clubs squad playing in an inter-divisional festival in Coventry contained six Barnard Castle boys played in thesquad. One of them, school captain and head of school Guy Van Den Dries, has followed a distinguished list of predecessors by being selected to play for the England Schools and Clubs team.
Add the success of twins Jonny and Guy Coser with the North Under 16 team and all the evidence points to the fact that the Barnard Castle school of rugby excellence is still as thriving as it ever was.