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Lewis Ludlam: The England winger will leave Northampton Saints at the end of the season

Lewis Ludlam: The England winger will leave Northampton Saints at the end of the season

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Lewis Ludlam has played in the past two World Cups for England

England winger Lewis Ludlam will leave Premier League leaders Northampton Saints at the end of the season.

Ludlam, who made 121 appearances for Northampton, rejected the offer of a new contract to remain with the Saints beyond the summer.

β€œI know he's ripped,” Saints director of rugby Phil Dawson said.

β€œHe has made a difficult decision and we have to accept that and respect it, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating to see him move on, after we offered him a new contract and tried to keep him at Saints.

Dawson said Ludlam, a player who has come through the club's academy, is an “example” of what Saints try to do with players.

He added: β€œHe came as a youngster through the academy system, started training straight into the first team, and has progressed into a key player for us as well as captain of the club.”

β€œHe has done an exceptional job leading the group, driving the energy and standards here,” Dawson added.

While it is not known where Ludlam will play next season, a potential move to Toulon could see him overlooked in England selection as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) does not allow overseas-based players to be selected for the national team.

He added: “I think I gave everything physically and emotionally for this club and I hope our fans see how important it is to me to represent Northampton in the way I play.”

Confirmation of Ludlam's departure comes during a two-month break in the Premier League season to accommodate the Six Nations Championship.

Ludlam loses 'blow without a doubt'

Analysis – Graham McKechnie, BBC Radio Northampton

Lewis Ludlam has been a huge part of the Saints on and off the field for a number of seasons. His commitment to the cause, as well as the fact that he grew up at home, made him very popular among supporters.

Not only has Ludlam been an outstanding player for Saints, he is also a natural leader of the group and has been so since his days in the academy.

His mental toughness matches his physical build – he has made full use of his natural talents. So losing a player of his stature – especially one who has come through the academy – is definitely a blow.

A lack of opportunities with England appears to have been partly the motivation for the move, but from a Saints point of view, the arrival of Tom Pearson and the emergence of Henry Pollock at least suggests that cover is in place in the back row.

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