From Ipswich schoolboy to England Rugby World Cup star - the Lewis Ludlam story
PUBLISHED: 19:34 12 August 2019
As an eight-year-old, Ipswich-born Lewis Ludlam watched the England rugby team lift the World Cup - now, 16 years on, he could be the one holding it high.
Ludlam, 23, kicked off his first international game against Wales as he earned his first cap for Eddie Jones' side on Sunday, August 11 in a World Cup warm-up tie.
One day later, he was named in the 31-man squad to represent England in Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The former St Joseph's College pupil currently plies his trade on the flanks for Northampton Saints in the Gallagher Premiership, with his record previously seeing him earn caps for the international under-18 and under-20 sides.
But it was in Ipswich where the number six learned to ruck and maul, starting off at Ipswich Rugby Football Club in Humber Doucy Lane.
Lewis had joined the club as an eight-year-old after watching Martin Johnson and top scorer Johnny Wilkinson lift the World Cup for the first time in 2003.
It was there where the Gorseland Primary School pupil quickly earned himself a reputation.
David Dodds, Lewis's first rugby coach, said: "He always had something special about him.
"He always had just that extra bit of pace, just that extra bit of strength, that extra bit of skill. There was something about him that made me think: 'You know I think he could do something here.'
"Lewis and his family were an absolute pleasure to have around and I couldn't be prouder for them all. I helped show him the passion, the ethic and the spirit of the game, but everything since has been thanks to Lewis himself."
Club vice-chairman Rob Kersey added: "Ipswich Rugby Club are incredibly proud of Lewis following his outstanding performance in his debut game for England against Wales on Saturday.
"With Eddie Jones just announcing his 31-man World Cup squad it couldn't be more fitting that a player whose motivation to play the game came following England's world cup victory in 2003 which lead to him joining Ipswich Rugby club aged just eight years old.
"A mere three world cups later he will board a plane as part of the England squad of 2019. Everyone at Ipswich Rugby Club wishes Lewis and the rest of the England squad the best of luck for Japan 2019."
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A brief spell at Colchester followed as the young and hungry player matured at Kesgrave High School, before a scholarship to local rugby school St Joseph's College gave the flanker his opportunity to step up a level.
He was an instrumental part of the college's first XV for three years from Year 11 to Upper Sixth, captaining the team to victory in the National Schools tournament in 2013.
Danielle Clarke, principal at St Joseph's, said: "We were absolutely delighted to learn today that Lewis will be joining the Rugby World Cup squad this year. The entire St Joseph's College community will be behind him, bringing an extra special dimension to our enjoyment of the tournament.
"Lewis is the first of our Old Birkfeldians to earn a cap for the full international XV and we are all incredibly proud of the accomplished player he has become."
A professional future awaited the graduate who had been spotted by Northampton Saints while playing for his school.
After being dropped as a 15-year-old, he eventually made it back to the club before making his debuts for the national youth sides.
Injuries to player's Haskell and Brüssow helped him to gain a place in the first team, but the rest, simply put, is history.
Overjoyed by the news, Lewis's dad Aaron Ludlam said: "We've had two of the best days of our lives as a family with the debut yesterday and the news today. So many sacrifices have been made, not just by Lewis but also his sisters and his Mum and the family as a whole.
"I received a phone call from my daughter and she was in tears - I thought something had gone wrong at first. To go from his fantastic performance yesterday to this is just unbelievable.
"We knew it would be a long shot, but to be on the plane is immense."
Mr Ludlam admitted he watched his son's international debut with a pen and paper, trying to guess who would make the final squad.
He added: "We're delighted with the news and this is absolutely the highest privilege you can have to represent your country and our home town of Ipswich on a world stage."
Although boasting a strong rugby school in St Jo's, the town hasn't been renowned for being a rugby stronghold, with Russian-born RAF serviceman Prince Alexander Obolensky arguably being the town's most well-known player.
Fellow Old Birkfeldian student and Saints player Tom Emery had joined Ludlam at the Northamptonshire club before being released this year. He previously represented his country in the England's Sevens team.
Elsewhere, former Ipswich School student and F1 racer Alex Albon has made the step up from Toro Rosso to join the main Red Bull Racing team from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards.