Lewis Ludlam insists England are 'heading in the right direction' despite Calcutta Cup defeat

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Saints skipper Lewis Ludlam insists England are 'heading the in right direction' despite their 29-23 Six Nations loss at the hands of old rivals Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ludlam played the full 80 minutes as Steve Borthwick's reign as Red Rose head coach ended in an agonising defeat, with Gregor Townsend's Scots retaining the Calcutta Cup thanks to a Duhan van der Merwe try five minutes from time.

The result means England's Grand Slam and Triple Crown hopes are over after just one match of the tournament, but Ludlam is keen to take the positives from his team's performance.

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“That was a proper Test match, a proper Test match,” said Ludlam, who was the only Saints player involved in the match day 23.

Lewis Ludlam applauds the England fans after the team's to Scotland at Twickenham on SaturdayLewis Ludlam applauds the England fans after the team's to Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday
Lewis Ludlam applauds the England fans after the team's to Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday

“It was really enjoyable and it’s always an honour to put on the England shirt.

“It’s hard not to be frustrated with the result. A few of our mistakes let them in the game and that’s Test rugby, they punished us for those mistakes.

“The thing that was pleasing is the boys showed a lot of fight and showed a lot of what we’ve been trying to put in place over the last 14 days on the training pitch.

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“It feels like we’re heading in the right direction and there’s clarity about how we want to play.”

Borthwick, who took over from the sacked Eddie Jones before Christmas, only had two weeks to work with the squad ahead of their Six Nations opener, and Ludlam feels with more time the team will only get better.

“It’s difficult, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” said Ludlam. “We have an understanding of how each other play.

“Now it is about having that understanding over how England play and then benefitting from the repetition of working that gameplan and understanding it.

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“It definitely feels like we’re heading in the right direction. It’s been such an enjoyable two weeks.

“It feels fresh with Steve and the other coaches as well, so it’s exciting. We’re disappointed because we wanted to get the win, but we’re so excited about where this team is going as well.”

South African-born van der Merwe scored one of the greatest solo tries Twickenham has seen in the first half of a game that ebbed and flowed throughout, and Ludlam admitted: “With the attack they have, Scotland attack really well.

“You see them doing that against all teams in world rugby.

“Van der Merwe was a massive threat for them, and he had a fantastic game. He really got them on to the front foot and we didn’t deal with that well enough.

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“However, our understanding of how we want to defend has come on a long way as well. There’s no panic about that performance, but it’s important that we build on that because we have Italy coming and we need to be better.”

England are back in action this Sunday when they host Italy, who were narrowly beaten by title favourites Frances in Rome at the weekend.

Ludlam can expect to retain his place in the starting line-up for that encounter, and he says he and his team-mates will be looking forward to the challenge when they report for duty on Monday.

“There is a real excitement,” said the 27-year-old.

“We want to get after it straight away, hit the ground running. This team hasn’t been together long playing this system.

"We want to attack it on Monday and there’s a real excitement.”