Rise of Saints flanker Ludlam continues with World Cup place

Lewis Ludlam has been named in England's World Cup squad
Lewis Ludlam has been named in England's World Cup squad

Lewis Ludlam's selection as a World Cup bolter for England will have surprised many.

After all, he only won his first cap last Sunday, starting at six in a 33-19 win against Wales at Twickenham.

But there are some who certainly won't be shocked by his rise to prominence.

Because in the corridors of Franklin's Gardens, Ludlam's name has resonated since he overcame being released by Saints as a youngster and returned to the club years later.

Over a lengthy period of time, the Ipswich-born player, who was originally a centre, has been spoken of as a someone with huge potential.

And it is perhaps his character which has impressed more than anything as he has dealt with setback after setback and come back stronger each time.

He suffered a leg break while on dual-registration with Coventry against Blaydon in January 2015, also damaging ankle ligaments in the process.

But he recovered quickly and went on to be named the England Under-20s' player of the tournament in the 2015 World Rugby Under-20s Championship, when they made the final.

And from his time in the Saints Academy to his appearances for the Wanderers, Ludlam has always looked like a special talent.

His senior team-mates regularly watched him play for the Wanderers and tweeted about him 'melting people' as the Saints second string won back-to-back A League titles.

But after a string of injuries and non-selection, it looked like Ludlam may struggle to turn potential into first-team performances.

There were only fleeting glimpses of what he could do on the big stage prior to last season.

He did not look out of place on his Saints debut at Newcastle Falcons in an Anglo-Welsh Cup clash in November 2016.

And he certainly didn't seem lost, even though most of his team-mates were, when he was handed his first Premiership appearance on the opening day of the 2017/18 season.

Saints was eviscerated by Saracens at Twickenham, but Ludlam did not shy away from the spotlight, instead standing tall and coming away with his first senior try in a 55-24 defeat.

The son of a boxer, that was a sign of the youngster's steel as he refused to be floored by a typically dominant display by the European champions.

Many felt that showing would be a foundation for Ludlam to build his first-team career on, but it didn't turn out like that.

As pressure grew at Saints, more experienced performers were the ones chosen to try to fight the fires.

That was until last summer, when Chris Boyd arrived from the Hurricanes and immediately saw something he liked from Ludlam.

The 23-year-old went from trying to save his Saints career to starting on a regular basis.

And he hasn't looked back since.

Ludlam, the indefatigable, all-action, back row forward, made 24 starts and three replacement appearances last season, scoring four tries in the process.

To put that into context, he had only made seven appearances in 2016/17 and eight the season after.

He's gone from 'Who is Ludlam?' to Lewis Ludlam, England World Cup squad member.

And if his ability to immediately settle on any stage continues, you wouldn't bet against him having a big impact when his team touch down in Japan next month.

Ludlam made his Saints debut in an Anglo-Welsh Cup win at Newcastle in 2016

Ludlam made his Saints debut in an Anglo-Welsh Cup win at Newcastle in 2016

The flanker scored on his Premiership debut, which came against Saracens on the first day of the 2017/18 season

The flanker scored on his Premiership debut, which came against Saracens on the first day of the 2017/18 season

Ludlam had a huge impact at Saints last season, scoring four tries

Ludlam had a huge impact at Saints last season, scoring four tries