Fighting spirit has put Saints forward Ludlum on path to top

Lewis Ludlum (right) took the fight to Newcastle last Sunday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Lewis Ludlum (right) took the fight to Newcastle last Sunday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
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With a boxer as a father, Lewis Ludlam has got used to seeing people pick themselves up off the canvas

So when the young Saints back row forward had his own setback, he knew all about the mental toughness needed to recover quickly.

Ludlum was released from the Northampton Academy after being told he didn’t have the bulk to make it in the big time.

But he went away, worked hard and came back bigger and stronger.

Now he is one of the brightest prospects at the club and has finally realised his ambition of making his first-team debut.

Ludlum played the full 80 minutes at Kingston Park on Sunday, helping to propel Saints to a gritty 24-16 Anglo-Welsh Cup success against Newcastle Falcons.

It was an impressive showing from the talented teen, who will turn 20 next month.

And it was the culmination of plenty of hard graft, on and off the field.

“I started at Ipswich but I unfortunately got dropped at a young age from the Saints Academy,” Ludlum said.

“I went to St Joseph’s College and they really helped me out, and my parents gave me a lot of support.

“At that point, I knew I had to start enjoying my rugby a little bit and get my head down to work a bit harder.

“I got back in a few years ago and I’ve been in the Academy for two years - now we’re here.”

With the words of the Academy coaches ringing in his ears, Ludlam fought to get back to where he felt he belonged.

And he is still fighting now.

He added: “It was about size. Physically, I was a long way behind everyone else and that’s something I’m still working on.

“But when you’re enjoying your rugby most, that’s when you’re at your best.

“When I was enjoying it more, it paid off in my performances.

“The coaches told me I had to put on a bit more size, learn a bit more about the game and they told me they would look at me a bit more in a few years.

“Luckily I got my opportunity again.”

But fighting comes naturally to the Ipswich-born youngster thanks to his dad Arron, who used to be a white-collar boxer in the heavyweight division.

“My dad’s an inspiration for me,” said Ludlum, who bounced back after suffering a broken leg while on dual-registration at Coventry during the 2014/15 season.

“He’s got that mentality that I can really look towards and my mum’s a really good netballer so the sporting foundation is there.

“It’s about the people you’ve got around you.

“You need a good circle of support and once you’ve got that it’s a lot easier, rather than doing it on your own.”

Since returning to the Saints Academy, Ludlum has got tongues wagging, with those in-the-know feeling he has all the attributes to be a top player for the club.

And after the win at Newcastle, flanker Jamie Gibson tweeted that Ludlum, who was England’s player of the tournament in the 2015 World Rugby Under 20 World Championships, when they made the final, would be ‘one hell of a player’.

So does the player himself listen to those plaudits?

“Not particularly,” he said. “You shouldn’t really listen to it. You’ve just got to keep your head down and work hard.

“The coaches are good enough to give you opportunities when you deserve them.”

And that kind of attitude has certainly served Ludlum well so far.