Lewis Ludlam has confirmed he will leave Northampton in the summer and is poised to become the latest England international to move to France as he closes in on a move to Toulon.
The 28-year-old, who won the last of his 25 England caps in the World Cup bronze medal victory against Argentina, is set to join the growing exodus of players to the Top 14, following in the footsteps of Jack Willis, Henry Arundell, David Ribbans, Joe Marchant and Jack Nowell. Owen Farrell will also join Racing 92 next season.
Ludlam started two of England’s World Cup pool matches – having been a mainstay of the side during the Six Nations last year – but fell down the pecking order towards the latter stages of the competition. He has only just recovered from a two-month injury layoff but, like Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler who are also out of contract in the summer and thought to be heading abroad, he has been conspicuous by his absence in Steve Borthwick’s recent Six Nations squads.
It is a blow for Northampton to lose their captain with Courtney Lawes also heavily linked with a move to France. “Obviously we’re disappointed to see a player of Lewis’s ability and character move on,” the Northampton director of rugby, Phil Dowson, said. “He has made a difficult decision and we have to accept and respect that – but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see him move on, after we offered a new contract and tried to keep him at Saints.”
It is believed Ludlam was not offered an enhanced hybrid contract by the Rugby Football Union for next season – deals designed to help keep England players in the Premiership – as Maro Itoje and Jamie George were before committing to Saracens.
“This has been an extremely tough decision for me,” Ludlam said. “I believe I’ve given everything physically and emotionally to this club, and I hope our fans have seen how much it has meant to me to represent Northampton in the way I play the game.”