Lewis Ludlam has confirmed he has made the “extremely tough decision” to leave Northampton Saints at the end of the season.
The 28-year-old has been rumoured to be heading out the door since October, with Toulon the club regularly cited as the one set to secure his signature.
It looked as if the transfer could be confirmed as early as November after a Daily Telegraph article said a deal had been agreed, but it seems Ludlam had been wrestling with the choice for a while.
“I know he has been torn,” said Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson.
“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.
“He came in as a youngster through the academy system, got straight into work training with the first team, and has transitioned into a key player for us as well as being the captain of the club.
“He’s done an exceptional job leading the group, driving the energy and standards here.”
The 25-times capped England back rower will likely become the sixth player from last year’s England’s Rugby World Cup squad to head back to France along with ex-Northampton teammate Dave Ribbans (at Toulon), Joe Marchant (Stade Francais), Jack Willis (Toulouse), and Henry Arundell – with Farrell set to join Arundell at Racing 92 in July.
He will join them as being unavailable for England duty unless there is a change of rules around the nation’s selection of foreign-based players.
“This has been an extremely tough decision for me,” Ludlam said in a statement on the Northampton Saints website.
“I believe I’ve given everything physically and emotionally to this Club – and will continue to do so – and I hope our fans have seen how much it has meant to me to represent Northampton in the way I play the game.”
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