England’s Ludlam has gone from water boy to World Cup in two months
England’s new rugby star Lewis Ludlam has gone from water boy to World Cup in two months… and he’s already caught the eye with passionate singing of National Anthem
- Guyana, Palestine, Egypt and England represent heritage of the 24-year-old
- Ludlam was named in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad the day after England debut
- He caught the eye with his passionate rendition of National Anthem last Sunday
- The forward was inspired to play rugby by England’s 2003 World Cup triumph
Four Flags adorn the top of Lewis Ludlam’s Twitter profile page.
Those of Guyana, Palestine, Egypt and England represent his heritage — a cocktail of international ingredients that have made the country’s surprise World Cup package.
Ludlam was born and raised in Ipswich. His maternal grandmother Elaine was a Windrush generation West Indian from Guyana and, on his fathers’ side, Isis — his other grandmother — left Palestine for Lebanon, then the UK when trouble struck in the Gaza Strip.
A cocktail of international ingredients have made surprise World Cup package Lewis Ludlam
Height: 6ft 2in
Weight: 17st 0lbs
There are also Egyptian influences on his father’s side.
‘Quite a mix!’ smiled Ludlam – who was named in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad the day after his England debut against Wales last Sunday having only trained with the national squad for two months.
‘Loads of different cultures, which means lots of nice food!’
Ludlam’s grandmothers’ moves meant his parents – Arron and Dorinda – grew up in Suffolk. They produced Lewis, now a heart-on-the-sleeve Englishman who was inspired by the heroes of 2003.
That much was clear when he sang a chest-puffing, eyes-welling rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ at Twickenham last weekend before his first cap, channelling his rugby idol Lawrence Dallaglio.
Ludlam caught the eye with his passionate rendition of the National Anthem last Sunday
Ludlam describes himself as quite a ‘chilled’ 23-year-old usually – but when he caught his fathers’ dampening eye during the second verse, emotion effervesced out of him.
‘I caught sight of Dad in the crowd and to see him belting it out made me want to sing it that little bit louder too,’ he added.
‘I like to get myself worked up before a game and play off that emotion but not like that ever really.
‘Seeing my dad doing the anthem gave me goose-bumps.’ England captain Owen Farrell – hardly a shy type himself – was notably impressed by that, and the performance that followed.
‘Lewis didn’t wait for no one,’ said the skipper.
The forward was named in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad the day after his England debut
‘For him to play the way he did with that controlled aggression, and to be as accurate as he was was a massive lesson for a good few people.
‘He’s there with his first cap, leading from the front as soon as the whistle blows.’ The ‘controlled aggression’ Farrell speaks of comes from Arron Ludlam, Lewis’ father.
Once a white-collar heavyweight boxer and no-nonsense No 9 in local club football, who now works for BT dealing with television and broadband, Ludlam Snr passed on the combative genes.
‘Lewis has probably picked up some of that controlled aggression from his father,’ David Dodds, Ludlam’s first rugby coach, exclusively told Sportsmail.
‘At an early age you could tell he could go places.’ Motivated by the 2003 World Cup final Ludlam – a Tottenham Hotspur fan – started his rugby career aged 8 at Ipswich RFC.
‘Martin Johnson lifting the World Cup inspired so many to come down,’ added Dodds.
Motivated by the 2003 World Cup final Ludlam started his rugby career aged 8 at Ipswich RFC
‘We were inundated! Lewis was a bit lanky, and slightly quicker than the rest, so was an obvious choice to play centre. The lad has some mettle.
‘Lewis would break tackle after tackle. There weren’t many teams who could stop him! It wouldn’t be uncommon for him to score three or four tries a game!’
But it has not all flowed Ludlam’s way. At 14 – then a flanker with a sports scholarship to St Joseph’s College – he was dropped by the Northampton Saints academy.
Devastated, he worked his way back and by 18 was re-selected by Saints.
While dual-registered at Coventry, though, he broke his leg during the 2014-15 season – but again clawed back to make England’s U20 squad for the junior World Cup of that summer.
Alongside fellow senior World Cup squad-member Ellis Genge he made the final, before losing to New Zealand.
Ludlam has made the plane to Japan and gone from water-boy to World Cup in two months
After Ludlam struggled for further recognition and the trolls of social media questioned him.
‘You see a lot of stuff – where’s Ludlam? What’s he doing? He hasn’t played since the junior World Cup,’ remembered the man himself.
‘Reading that made me want to prove people wrong.’ Eventually – after stints at Moseley and Rotherham Titans – he did. At the start of the 2017-18 season he was handed a Premiership debut at Twickenham on the openside flank opposite Maro Itoje.
Saracens battered Saints 55-24, but Ludlam scored. However, with Tom Wood, Louis Picamoles, Heinrich Brussow, Jamie Gibson, James Haskell and Teimana Harrison in the back-row the youngster could not break through.
Lewis Ludlam was the 128th player Eddie Jones picked for an England squad in the three-and-a-half years he has been head coach. The Australian has called up 129 men in total, and capped 70, with uncapped wing Ruaridh McConnochie the latest selection.
‘This time last year was like almost one last shot at it,’ reflected Ludlam.
‘I was trying to play my way towards creating a good highlights reel to get a gig at not such a big club as Northampton or abroad.’ He stayed and, finally, last season New Zealander coach Chris Boyd gave Ludlam a chance when back-row stocks were short.
‘I can’t thank him enough for giving me that opportunity,’ said England’s last-minute World Cup bolter.
Having excelled, this June the tyro was called into a scratch England squad that prepared for the Barbarians match as club-mate Harrison had to miss training to attend the birth of his child.
Now Ludlam has made the plane to Japan. From water-boy to World Cup in two months.
‘It has been a bizarre seven weeks,’ Ludlam beamed.
And that is just the beginning.
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