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Lewis Ludlam almost quit rugby before making England's World Cup squad

By Online Editors
England's Lewis Ludlam poses after selection in the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

World Cup-bound Lewis Ludlam was considering his options outside of rugby a year ago as he reflected on a career that was in danger of fading away.

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Ludlam is among the surprise inclusions in England’s squad for Japan 2019 after an accomplished Test debut against Wales at Twickenham on Sunday propelled him into the final 31 ahead of Brad Shields.

A June camp was his first recognition by Eddie Jones yet after expecting to be jettisoned each time a new training group was announced, the openside flanker is instead heading to the Far East as one of five back row options.

At the last World Cup, he was even picking several of his new England team-mates in his fantasy team for the tournament.

But after starring at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in 2015 when he was named his team’s most valuable player, his progress stalled back at his club Northampton due to a combination of injury and the competition from seasoned internationals.

“It has been a bizarre seven weeks. This time last year was like almost one last shot at it for me, trying to fight for another Saints contract,” Ludlam said.

“There were a lot of back rows and (director of rugby) Chris Boyd said to me when he came in that he could give me an opportunity but he didn’t really see where I fitted into his plans.

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“I didn’t even know if I would get a contract renewal. I had one year left. I hadn’t played more than a handful of games since my the junior World Cup.

“You see a lot of stuff on social media – ‘Where’s Ludlam? What’s he doing? Hasn’t played since the junior World Cup.’ Chris Boyd said the same when he came in.

“It crossed my mind – what am I going to do post-rugby? But I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do other than play rugby.

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“Part of last year was about trying to play my way into a good highlights reel to get a gig at a smaller club than Northampton or potentially abroad. I was always thinking about other options.

“But reading the stuff about me on social media made me want to prove people wrong and I’m just happy I got the opportunity to do that.

“Chris has given me that confidence. He told me to play my natural game and enjoy it. For a coach to put that sort of confidence into you as a young player really helped me push on.

“Eddie said exactly the same to me on Sunday – enjoy it, be natural, and the rest will follow.”

Apart from the maturity, resilience and physicality shown against Wales, Ludlam’s first Test appearance was notable for the passion evident when singing the national anthem.

He comes from a family of mixed heritage – dad Arron is of Palestinian and Egyptian origin while mum Dorinda hails from a Guyanese background.

It was glimpsing his father in the crowd at Twickenham and seeing him perform God Save The Queen with such gusto that inspired Ludlam.

“I’m not naturally very emotional. I like to get myself worked up before a game and play off that emotion, but not ever like that.” the 23-year-old said.

“Seeing my dad in the crowd while singing the anthems gave me goosebumps, gave that extra little bit of something. I wanted to sing it that little bit louder too.”

– Press Association

WATCH: Lewis Ludlam talks to RugbyPass following his selection in the England RWC squad

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M
Mzilikazi 8 hours ago
Swashbuckling Hurricanes and Harlequins show scrum still matters

I always enjoy a good scrum based article. Thanks, Nick. The Hurricanes are looking more and more the team to beat down here in Australasia. They are a very well balanced team. And though there are far fewer scrums in the game these days, destructive power in that area is a serious weapon, especially an attacking scrum within in the red zone. Aumua looked very good as a young first year player, but then seemed to fade. He sure is back now right in the picture for the AB’s. And I would judge that Taukei’aho is in a bit of a slump currently. Watching him at Suncorp a few weeks ago, I thought he was not as dominant in the game as I would have expected. I am going to raise an issue in that scrum at around the 13 min mark. I see a high level of danger there for the TH lifted off the ground. He is trapped between the opposition LH and his own powerful SR. His neck is being put under potentially dangerous pressure. The LH has, in law , no right to use his superior scrummaging skill….getting his head right in on the breastbone of the TH…..to force him up and off the ground. Had the TH popped out of the scrum, head up and free, there is no danger, that is a clear penalty to the dominant scrum. The law is quite clear on this issue: Law 37 Dangerous play and restricted practices in a scrum. C:Intentionally lifting an opponent off their feet or forcing them upwards out of the scrum. Sanction: Penalty. Few ,if any, referees seem to be aware of this law, and/or the dangers of the situation. Matthew Carly, refereeing Clermont v Munster in 2021, penalised the Munster scrum, when LH Wycherly was lifted very high, and in my view very dangerously, by TH Slimani. Lifting was coached in the late ‘60’s/70’s. Both Lions props, Ray McLouglin, and “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan, were expert and highly successful at this technique. I have seen a photo, which I can’t find online atm, of MM with a NZ TH(not an AB) on his head, MM standing upright as the scrum disintegrates.

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