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Young Gun: Lewis Ludlam – Northampton and Coventry flanker

Lewis LudlamIt definitely did not seem like it at the time, but being released by Northampton at the age of 14 is the best thing that has happened to Lewis Ludlam.

Playing for one of the most successful clubs in the country and being on a scholarship at the prestigious St Joseph’s College, a bright future lay ahead for the young flanker. But pressure to perform held Ludlam back and Northampton let him go.

Such a set back at that age could have ended his aspirations to become a professional player, but he learnt to love rugby again at school and two years later Saints came back.

Fast forward another two years and Ludlam was the vice-captain of their Premiership winning academy side while making a try-scoring debut with England U18s against France in Dunkirk.

“I used to put a lot of pressure on myself and that held me back massively. I wasn’t performing well and Northampton dropped me,” he told The Rugby Paper.

“So I took two years out where I only played for St Joseph’s and I enjoyed my rugby a lot more. I was looking forward to games on the weekend. I was playing a lot better and two years later Northampton came back and offered me a full-time academy contract.

“The support I had at St Joseph’s was incredible. To be honest I’m not sure I should have kept my scholarship after being dropped but they kept me on. I would never be where I am now without their support.

“I was devastated when Saints let me go but it was a blessing in disguise really because that’s when I progressed the most as a player.

“I learnt to put things in perspective during those two years and l concentrated on improving as a player at every session rather than keep looking at what I might miss out on in the future.”

Now out of school, Ludlam is involved full-time with Northampton but he’s making the step up to men’s rugby with Coventry in National League One where he is dual-registered.

Experienced flankers Tom Wood and Phil Dowson have taken him under their wings and the youngster is now looking forward to the international season with England U20s as he hopes to book a place for the Junior World Cup in Italy.

He said: “I’m getting a lot of game time at Coventry which is great and I’m slowly getting used to being in a full-time professional environment at Saints.

“Being a flanker, moving from school rugby to senior rugby is a big step up but I’m lucky to be able to train daily with the likes of Tom and Phil and that helps massively. We often do extras together or I just watch what they do to see what it takes to be at the top.

“When I was at school we trained when we could but being full-time now we train three to four times a week and it’s a lot more physical. But because you train so much you do feel a lot more confident going into games.

“I’ve had to put on a bit of weight too as I went into pre-season at 90kg. I’m 100kg now and there’s a bit more to add to that but it hasn’t slowed me down at all which is great.

“I’m part of the England U20s squad so I’ll be looking to impress during the Six Nations to hopefully make the cut for the Junior World Cup.

“I’m out of contract at the end of the year so I’ll do everything I can at training during the week and with Coventry on the weekend to earn myself a new deal with Saints because right now there is no better place for me to be.”

NICK VERDIER

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