Waiting game pays off for Ludlam
World Cup-bound Lewis Ludlam was considering his options outside of rugby a year ago as he reflected on a career that was in danger of fading away.
Ludlam is among the surprise inclusions in England's squad for Japan 2019 after an accomplished Test debut against Wales at Twickenham on Sunday propelled him into the final 31 ahead of Brad Shields.
A June camp was his first recognition by Eddie Jones yet after expecting to be jettisoned each time a new training group was announced, the openside flanker is instead heading to the Far East as one of five back row options.
At the last World Cup, he was even picking several of his new England team-mates in his fantasy team for the tournament.
But after sta rring at the World Rugby U-20 Championship in 2015 when he was named his team's most valuable player, his progress stalled at Northampton due to a combination of injury and stiff competition.
"It has been a bizarre seven weeks. This time last year was like almost one last shot at it for me, trying to fight for another Saints contract," Ludlam said.
"There were a lot of back rows and (director of rugby) Chris Boyd said to me when he came in that he could give me an opportunity but he didn't really see where I fitted into his plans.
"I didn't even know if I would get a contract renewal. I had one year left. I hadn't played more than a handful of games since my the junior World Cup.
"You see a lot of stuff on social media - 'Where's Ludlam? What's he doing? Hasn't played since the junior World Cup.' Chris Boyd said the same when he came in.
"Part of last year was about trying to play my way into a good highlights reel to get a gig at a smaller club. I was always thinking about other options.
"Chris has given me that confidence. He told me to play my natural game and enjoy it.
"Eddie said exactly the same to me on Sunday - enjoy it, be natural, and the rest will follow."