Nino Severino: Lewis Ludlam’s journey from Ipswich schoolboy to Rugby World Cup will inspire so many
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In his latest column, Nino Severino discusses Ipswich’s very own Rugby World Cup star Lewis Ludlam, and the support of the school which helped him reach his dreams.
We are now in the early stages of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the first time this prestigious tournament has been held in Asia.
Rugby is one of the sports I have never had the opportunity to work in, but I'm pleased to say because of my work at The Hub, Centre of Excellence based at IWIC, I was invited to St Joseph's College last week to attend their Sports Information Evening - and this school, as I found out, definitely knows a thing or two about world-class rugby.
As soon as I walked into the presentation room, it was clear who the young rugby players were, the physicality of these young men is outstanding and it was obvious that a lot of hard work went into creating the bodies needed for this extreme contact sport.
I've heard it said that taking a full impact rugby tackle is like experience a car crash, and that's why these young men need to develop powerful bodies, not only to deliver impact, but also to receive it.
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The game of rugby is without doubt a sport for very tough and resilient athletes, and that's exactly what I witnessed at this incredible school that dedicates so much of its efforts to ensuring they create players of the highest standards.
When I say the highest standards, this is not a throw away comment, this is based on results.
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Lewis Ludlam, Northampton Saints flanker and an old boy (Old Birkfeldian) of St Jo's, is actually out in Japan with England as I write.
Just a day after the 23-year-old earned his first England cap playing in the warm up game against Wales, he flew out to Japan for the main tournament.
He duly came on in England's opening win against Tonga, and will make his full debut in the clash with the USA tomorrow (11.45am).
As most of my readers know, I often talk about celebrating all that is outstanding in sport in Ipswich and my goodness, it does not get much bigger than this in terms of achievement!
I listened to St Jo's principal, Danielle Clarke presenting to all the families who were there and it was obvious how much pride she felt as she talked about the school's education and sports programmes and their many achievements.
On hearing the news about Lewis, she said: "We were absolutely delighted to learn 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."
I often write about the hopes and dreams of the young athlete and how these are so important in terms of creating the mental and physical energy to endure all that sport will throw at them as they travel along their journey to champion status.
It was very interesting to read what Lewis' mum, Dorinda Ludlam, said: "For Lewis, this really is a dream come true - he's been working toward this since he first started playing when he was about ten years old and certainly since he gained his sports scholarship at St Joseph's College.
"It really has been their faith in him, and the support of the whole community, that have helped shape his career to this amazing moment."
The sporting opportunities that are offered to me are exceptional, and I appreciate every single one of them, but having the opportunity to join the St Joseph College team of specialists, is one that really excites me.
I've visited the school on a number of occasions, there are many aspects that greatly impress me, but it's the utter commitment to excellence that stands out.
I've been invited to return to St Jo's by the Assistant Principal and Director of Sport Anthony O'Riordan, and Ben Palmer, Director of Finance for the National Schools Rugby Festival on October 19/20.
The World Cup quarter-finals will be played during the same weekend, and I've been informed that they will be streaming the games live so the festival visitors don't miss any of the world-class action in Japan.
The thousands of visitors will be very disappointed that Lewis Ludlam will not be attending - but on this occasion, I think he can be excused!