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Lewis Ludlam returns from injury to captain new-look Northampton

By Josh Raisey
Lewis Ludlam takes a knee during the Northampton Saints match. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

England flanker Lewis Ludlam is set to return from a two-month absence tomorrow when he captains Northampton Saints against Newcastle Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens in the Gallagher Premiership.

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The 28-year-old picked up an ankle injury against Harlequins in November, and has since been on the sidelines as the Saints have gone on an eight-match winning run (nine including the win over Quins), where they have reached the top of the league and secured a home tie in the Investec Champions Cup round of 16.

During his absence, Ludlam also missed out on Steve Borthwick’s England squad for the Guinness Six Nations, but has seen seven of his teammates (Alex Coles, Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Alex Mitchell, Tom Pearson and Fin Smith) make the squad- and rightfully so given their form. As a result, he will captain a much-changed Saints side against bottom of the league Newcastle, which will see Gabriel Hamer-Webb make his debut after signing a short-term deal last week.

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This match provides Ludlam an opportunity to send a statement to Borthwick ahead of an extended break for Premiership sides during the Six Nations. With Saints teammate Courtney Lawes retiring after the World Cup, Tom Curry out for the season, Jack Willis ineligible and Billy Vunipola not selected, England’s back row is much changed this year, which means the experience of Ludlam may be what Borthwick is after at some stage.

Northampton Saints XV
15 Rory Hutchinson
14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb
13 Burger Odendaal
12 Tom Litchfield
11 Ollie Sleightholme
10 Charlie Savala
9 Tom James
1 Alex Waller
2 Sam Matavesi
3 Trevor Davison
4 Temo Mayanavanua
5 Chunya Munga
6 Courtney Lawes
7 Lewis Ludlam (c)
8 Sam Graham

Replacements
16 Robbie Smith
17 Tarek Haffar
18 Elliot Millar Mills
19 Alex Moon
20 Juarno Augustus
21 Angus Scott-Young
22 Callum Braley
23 Joel Matavesi

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J
Jon 5 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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