- Dulwich reached the Schools Cup final four years in a row from 2012
- The Champions Trophy semi-final draw is made tomorrow
From 2012 to 2015, something started to click for Dulwich College.
They had always been an outstanding rugby school – England forwards Nick Easter, Andrew Sheridan and David Flatman played alongside each other in the school's memorable 1997 invincibles team - but from 2012 they went a step further.
Three consecutive wins in the U18 Schools Cup as well as finalists in 2015 cemented their place in schools rugby history. They became the first side since Colstons' run ended in 2000 to reach more than three consecutive finals.
The school has now made the step up to the U18 Champions Trophy and after a disappointing 2016/17 season are one win away from a semi-final place in this year’s competition.
Old boy at the fore
This year they are coached by old boy James Hanks who returned in the school in 2014 after a decade of playing professional rugby for Exeter Chiefs.
Hanks, 33, is following in the footsteps of Sam Howard, who oversaw the three successive national championships before moving on to a new role at Eltham College.
It seems to be going well. They have reached the last eight of the Champions Trophy having beaten St Paul’s and Berkhamsted and next Tuesday will face Bromsgrove for a place in the semi-final.
Fittingly, it was Bromsgrove that ended Dulwich’s run of national championships when they beat them in the 2015 final.
While Hanks and his coaching team are trying to move on from those glory years, it’s an achievement that is still etched in the minds of the players.
“A lot of the boys now playing in the first team were in year seven when we first won that national championship in 2012," says Hanks.
“They looked up to those guys, they were their heroes and we still get some of those guys back to help in training.”
And while the latter stages of a national competition might be familiar territory for Dulwich, Hanks insists they aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“We aren’t thinking beyond the next match. We just want them to enjoy it. We want them to be relaxed and perform to the best of their ability regardless of result.”
Captained by Oscar Gleave, Hanks says the team aren’t the biggest on the schools circuit but have worked hard to get to where they are.
“We like to play intelligent, attacking rugby and most importantly the boys are always incredible happy and proud to represent their school.
“We sometimes field up to 33 teams every weekend across the years and to play at the pinnacle is a great achievement.
“At the start of the season we had two boys involved with academies and now that’s up to around five which I think reflects the dedication of the players.”
Come next Tuesday, 14 November Hanks will know if this side has what it takes to start a new era for Dulwich College.
The Champions Trophy semi-finals will be drawn tomorrow with St John's Leatherhead, Kingswood and Blundell's all through to the semi-finals.