BARNARD Castle go into the semi-finals of the National Schools competition at Castlecroft, Wolverhampton, on Saturday with coach Martin Pepper believing some of his charges could play for the senior England side, writes Tim Wellock.

"We want to lose the tag of being remembered for producing Rob Andrew and the Underwoods," he said. Their team wasn't undefeated like this one. The last time the school team went through the season undefeated was in 1948.

"Some of this team have the potential to play for England. Some are already involved with the Newcastle Falcons Academy and centre Matthew Tait has done some work with the Gloucester Academy."

Tait, from Wolsingham, played for England Under-16s last year and both he and full back James Hamer, a Teessider, are in the Under-18 squad this season.

Other budding stars include prop Ross Batty, who has made the school first-team while still in the fifth form and is in the England Under-16 squad.

Pepper also speaks of players like Jack White, the son of a local doctor, David Farrington and Andrew Pettler as the unsung heroes who have always been part of a team who have grown up together.

If they beat St Peter's, Gloucester, on Saturday they will go through to the final at Twickenham on March 29.

"Everyone is very excited about it," said Pepper. "It has been difficult keeping the lads focused because we normally play rugby only until Christmas. This term we do hockey, swimming, squash and cross-country.

"We were unbeaten in 19 matches and we have kept things going with a practice match against East Durham College. We had the boys in on Sunday morning and we're doing a bit each day to make sure we prepare well."

Durham School have reached the semi-finals of the Under-15 event and now face Millfield at Castlecroft.