Lewis Ludlam primed for ‘hunting’ trip on return to Twickenham to face Ireland

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Lewis Ludlam returns to the scene of those famous ‘anthem tears’ this weekend warning Ireland that England intend to hunt them down.

The Northampton star stole the headlines on his last Twickenham appearance as much for his what he did before kick-off as for a debut performance which booked his ticket to the World Cup.

Lining up for God Save the Queen he caught sight of his dad Arron in the stands, belted out the words as his eyes filled with tears – then went from happy to glorious as England easily beat Wales.

“That’s the moment I get really pumped up, during the anthems,” Ludlam said yesterday. “That’s when my emotions are really high. The hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I’m buzzing and ready.”

Six months on he is back at Headquarters after a road trip which has taken in a run to the World Cup final and a further seven caps. His passion for representing his country is undimmed.

That much was evident from his Calcutta Cup pre-match outburst a fortnight ago when he talked ‘war, hate, brutality and fighting’ almost without pausing for breath.

He has kept more of a lid on his emotions this time but still left unbeaten Ireland under no illusions that they must win the mother of all battles if they are to land their 12th Triple Crown.

Ludlam warned: “As a team and as players we are always looking at hunting other teams down. That’s always top in my mindset. We want to impose ourselves and we try to do that as much as possible.”

He admits there is a “fine line between being excited and having the emotion drain you” and that for him staying the right side of it remains a work in progress.

“I haven’t yet felt drained in games,” he added. “But I’m fully aware that the lads who have played in the shirt for a long time have learned how to control their emotions and how to switch them on and off.

“I do get excited early on and while I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, it is something I’m working on.”

Ireland have a choice of motivation for this weekend. They can bask in the golden memory of winning the Grand Slam on their last Six Nations visit to Twickenham in 2018.

Alternatively, they can get fired up by the nightmare of being hammered in Dublin a year later and then shipping 57 points when the sides met last summer in a painfully lopsided World Cup warm-up match.

No prizes for guessing which of the two has stuck with them.

“The last two games with England we’ve had a bit of a spanking,” said Bundee Aki. “So we need to focus on ourselves and make sure we bring our “A” game.

“England are a world-class team, World Cup runners-up, it’s a cauldron-like atmosphere and if you’re off your game they are going to punish you. We’re under no illusions.”

England need victory to stay alive in the title race and Ludlam says belief is no issue despite them being well beaten by France and far from imperious in Scotland.

“We know the ability we have in this team,” he said. “Winning the title would be a hard thing to do but absolutely we back ourselves.”

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