Lewis Ludlam: No time for Northampton to feel sorry for themselves

Lewis Ludlam leaves the pitch following Northampton's defeat at Bristol
Lewis Ludlam will leave Northampton at the end of the season and has been linked with French club Toulon

Northampton Saints skipper Lewis Ludlam says they face a test of their title ambitions following their heavy Premiership defeat at Bristol.

Saints resumed the league campaign on a run of 10 successive wins, but leaked seven tries as they lost 52-21.

However, they remain three points clear at the top of the table with only five regular-season games to play.

"The overriding message is we can't feel sorry for ourselves," back row Ludlam told BBC Radio Northampton.

"They did a proper job on us but it's a good challenge for the team now.

"It's easy to get out of bed on a Monday morning when you're winning and it's a test of our character, a test of our strength, a test of our ambitions this season how we turn up (for training) on Monday.

"We've got to pick ourselves off the floor pretty quickly and get going."

Next up for Northampton is a home game against closest rivals Saracens on Friday, and they will be looking to complete a seasonal double, having won 18-12 at the StoneX Stadium in December.

"We haven't won anything yet. Top of the table, it's a temporary thing. We have to be performance driven," England international Ludlam added.

"All that matters is we come in Monday, work on key areas of our game and keep improving through the week so on Friday we're ready to fire and put a performance in, and we'll see where that gets us."

Saints expect Tommy Freeman to be available against Saracens, having been rested following the Six Nations, but director of rugby Phil Dowson thinks the game may come too soon for England team-mate Alex Mitchell.

"We're still talking to the medics about that. He's dealing with a wrist issue so we need to make sure we look after him," Dowson told BBC Radio Northampton.

"When he is available, he's likely to be involved because he's the best number nine in the league."