Highly-rated Ludlam takes it all in his stride at Saints

Lewis Ludlam scored his first Saints try last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Lewis Ludlam scored his first Saints try last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Listening to those in the know, it is clear that Lewis Ludlam could have a huge future in a Saints shirt.

The 21-year-old is one of the most highly-rated prospects to have emerged from the club's Academy in recent years.

And in last Saturday's clash with Saracens at Twickenham, he gave another glowing example of why.

In a chaotic encounter, which saw Saints ship nine tries in a 55-24 Aviva Premiership opening-day defeat, Ludlam provided a beacon of light amid the gloom.

On his first league start for Saints, he scored his first try for the club.

He had stepped up, even though many of his more senior team-mates struggled to.

And it provided yet more promise for the future when it comes to a player who has had praise heaped on him by men such as Tom Wood and Jim Mallinder.

However, Ludlam, an impressive, articulate young man, is taking it all in his stride as he prepares for another huge game, against Leicester Tigers at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

"It was great to get my first league start, especially at Twickenham, a special place to play, but it was a disappointing result for us, a disappointing performance," Ludlam said.

"It's something we're really looking to work on.

"For me, it's easy to play the occasion not the game, so I just tried to prepare for it like it was any other game.

"It was about relaxing and not chasing it.

"Woody has been awesome because he's been there and done pretty much everything so to have him on my side and adding words of wisdom was perfect.

"It's awesome for me to be competing with the likes of Teimana (Harrison) and Jamie (Gibson) so hopefully I can keep playing well and keep getting selected.

"It's great to get a little bit of exposure and nice comments here and there, but I'm focusing on my game and trying to be the best I can be.

"I know personally I've got a very long way to go and I'm just trying to get better each week."

So what has Ludlam been told he needs to improve?

"At this level, you've got to do everything better," he said.

"I like to think of myself as more of a lineout forward and that might help me in the Premiership, where set piece is key.

"My job is to take the best bits from everyone's game and I'm always looking at other people to improve and the older lads here are awesome in passing on tricks of the trade."

Ludlam keeps calm during the build-up to rugby matches by playing a different sort of game.

"I live with (fellow Saints player) Rory Hutchinson so we do a bit of gaming," the Ipswich-born back row forward said.

"We go to the cinema a fair bit and we just try to switch off as much as possible when we're away from the club.

"Us youngsters push each other and it's definitely healthy for us."

Ludlam's talent was clear from a very early age and he was awarded the man of the match award on his England Under-18 debut.

He was named England's player of the tournament in the 2015 World Rugby Under 20 World Championships, when his country made the final.

And now Ludlam is starting to show his worth in the Saints first team, having made his debut against Newcastle Falcons in an Anglo-Welsh Cup match in November, 2016.

But it hasn't always been plain-sailing for the youngster, who suffered a couple of serious injuries while growing up at Saints.

"My first two seasons here were a little bit disappointing in regards to injuries," said Ludlam, who strutted his stuff for Colchester RFC in his early years as a rugby player.

"I broke my leg and then had a torn pectoral muscle so to stay fit is great but you're going to pick up injuries along the way.

"I'm just looking to get to the top and make myself a better player.

"When you're not playing, you realise how much you miss it.

"You get a burst of energy when you're back and it makes you work harder because you think you should be at a higher level.

"You just keep your head down and work hard."

Ludlam will look to do that against Leicester this weekend.

And having risen through the ranks at Saints, he needs no reminding what the derby means to the club.

"There's nothing like a derby, especially Saints-Leicester - it's historic and I'm looking forward to the occasion," Ludlam said.

"I've been playing Leicester from a young age and it's going to be cagey and confrontational.

"We know it's a massive game and we know there's going to be added edge.

"We're looking forward to the challenge."

The pressure is on for Saints after two below-par seasons and last Saturday's heavy defeat.

But cool-headed Ludlam isn't fazed.

He said: "We know Saints is a massive club and we're not where we should be at the moment.

"We're doing everything we can to change that and it's good to let it get to you a little bit to push you on and motivate you, but then you've got to focus on your own game.

"You can't let negative comments get to you too much."