Flanker Ludlam now feels like a fully-fledged Saint
Lewis Ludlam now feels like a true Saint.
And on Saturday, he gets another chance to sample the fixture that means the most to anyone of a green, black and gold persuasion.
Ludlam will be on the bench for the clash with local rivals Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
It will be another chance for the highly-rated 21-year-old to show the promise everyone at Northampton knows he has.
And Ludlam is better prepared now, having already had a run out at Welford Road this season, coming on in the Premiership defeat in December.
It was one of a few important recent experiences for the fledgling flanker.
And after five appearances this season, he now feels like a first-team player having graduated from the Academy setup.
“It’s been fantastic,” said the Ipswich-born player, who made his debut in the Anglo-Welsh Cup win at Newcastle Falcons in November.
“I’ve played quite a bit this season and they’re feeding me in slowly, getting some experience, which has been nice.
“That experience as a young player is fantastic and hopefully I continue to get opportunities.
“It was awesome to come on at Montpellier last Friday.
“There wasn’t a lot riding on the game for us and it was a short run out, but I enjoyed it and experience is key.
“It’s easy to feel separate from the squad when you’re not involved so going away with them was great for me.
“You feel a part of it and training in the week is class because you’re working towards the game at the weekend.
“It gives you more confidence, but you’ve got to keep working hard and hopefully those opportunities will keep appearing for me.”
Ludlam has plenty of memories of watching derby matches between Saints and Tigers.
And he admits it is ‘surreal’ to now be able to play a part in them.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Premiership, Champions Cup or Anglo-Welsh Cup - it’s a derby,” he said.
“It’s definitely going to be a fierce contest and I’m looking forward to it.
“There’s always something extra involved in derby games.
“As a kid you watch these games and it’s always a little bit surreal of after so many years of watching it you’re involved at the weekend.
“I’ve got so many memories of derby game. I went to the Saints-Leicester Premiership final (in 2013) and it was class being in the crowd for that.
“I would have been 18 at the time, just joining the club, and it was a bit daunting joining the club the year after they’d lost the final because you didn’t know what the atmosphere was going to be like, but the season that followed was awesome for us.”
With Tom Wood, Teimana Harrison and Louis Picamoles on international duty and Calum Clark out with a knee injury, the opportunities keep coming for Ludlam.
And with the Premiership on the horizon - Saints go to Bath on February 10 - there is a real incentive for the youngster.
“Traditionally, this sort of period when the internationals go away, provides a lot of experience for young players,” Ludlam said.
“It’s just about taking these opportunities and if we do, we could be involved in the Premiership side.
“At the moment, I’m taking week by week and keeping my head down.
“If I’m playing well I’ll continue to get the opportunities.”