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'The regime has changed in that it’s not as much forced upon you'

By PA
BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - JULY 18: Will Stuart, Jack Willis and Tom Curry of England sprint during an England Rugby Training Session at Pennyhill Park on July 18, 2023 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Flanker Lewis Ludlam says England’s players are self-policing the consumption of sweet treats in a bid to be in peak condition for a shot at World Cup glory.

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Steve Borthwick’s preliminary squad are in the midst of preparations for the tournament in France, which kicks off in just seven weeks’ time.

Players were last week put through their paces in the heat of Italy before returning to home soil to continue building towards next month’s four warm-up fixtures.

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Northampton captain Ludlam revealed diet rules and weight monitoring have been relaxed slightly since head coach Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones.

Yet, after exclaiming he had not “seen cake in weeks” after spotting a buffet at the team’s Surrey training base, the 27-year-old insists players are not allowing each other to give in to temptation.

“The regime has changed in that it’s not as much forced upon you – you’ve got the trust to do everything the right way so we are in the best position to go and put ourselves in the best spot this World Cup,” he said.

“There’s a general feeling amongst the squad that we’ve got to be on the money and making sure we’re making decisions so we are better rugby players the next week and the next month.

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“It is a good group of lads and we keep each other in check.

“There might be a birthday cake here and there but I think the lads are pretty understanding of what’s ahead of us.

“In the grand scheme of things, it is a short time in our career when we can be really on it to give ourselves the chance of creating some really special memories.”

England take on Wales home and away in early August and then face Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin and Fiji at Twickenham before heading to France to begin their Pool D campaign against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.

Borthwick’s appointment last December led to Saints star Ludlam being surrounded at Test level by a management team previously in charge of his club’s fierce rivals Leicester.

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The 19-cap back-row forward initially found it strange setting aside hostilities and having old enemies as allies.

But he believes the England setup – led by former Tigers coaches Borthwick, Richard Wigglesworth, Aled Walters, Kevin Sinfield and Tom Harrison – is beginning to feel like a club environment.

“It was weird to get over in the beginning, especially Tom, who obviously loves Leicester and having been up against him a few times,” said Ludlam.

“Now, because we’ve been in camp for a long period of time – we don’t normally get this long period without games – it’s starting to feel like a club coming together rather than an international team where you’re only in for six weeks or whatever.

“It’s starting to come together really nicely into one unit.”

England’s final 33-man World Cup selection is due to be announced on August 7.

Injured quintet Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Ollie Lawrence, Ollie Chessum and Jack Walker, who were not included in Borthwick’s initial 41-strong training squad, are continuing their rehabilitation.

“They’re good, they’re on their programmes and working extremely hard to get themselves ready,” said scrum coach Harrison.

“Everyone’s got different timescales but they’re doing their best to be available.”

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