Cudmore has found his perfect niche

 

MUCH LIKE the Clermont Auvergne side which will try to dethrone Leinster in Bordeaux on Sunday, it has been a long and eventful journey to a European semi-final for Jamie Cudmore.

The Canadian recovered from some difficult times as a teenager to make it this far, playing in Wales and Grenoble before developing into a menacing presence in the Clermont secondrow.

Paul O’Connell knows that only too well, having famously traded blows with Cudmore at Thomond Park in 2008 as the visiting player received an early red card.

Standing at 6ft 5ins and weighing 18st, Cudmore has a fearsome reputation as an on-field enforcer. Last season he picked up two lengthy suspensions for stamping and punching, which saw him miss both pool games against Leinster. But after starting in Clermont’s quarter-final win at Saracens, he is likely to feature alongside former Leinster lock Nathan Hines this weekend.

It has been quite a ride for a man from the small town of Squamish, north of Vancouver. All the more so when you consider he did not take up rugby until his late teens, and that he had a few run-ins with the law.

Although he says you cannot believe everything you read about him on the internet, Cudmore was understandably reluctant to talk about a period that saw him serve time in a youth detention centre.

“All that stuff is in the past,” he said. “There were problems for sure but it was 14, 15 years ago now.

“I’ve always been a hard worker, regardless of what I was doing, so I’m glad I found a good outlet with something that I enjoy doing. To be able to be now playing in a European semi-final, I never would have thought it. It’s been a long road. I sure am happy I’m here and I’m going to keep working hard to stay at this level.”

Having started as an amateur, the 33-year-old has enjoyed a memorable career. He featured in three World Cups and in 2010 he was part of the Clermont side that finally won a first French championship title. He also owns a nightclub and wine bar in Clermont-Ferrand and, at the club since 2005, his family is well settled in the region. While he enjoys a certain celebrity in France though, it is a different story in his homeland.

“Definitely all my clubmates at my home club, the Capilanos, they all follow it. Especially since the Heineken Cup is well transmitted back home on TV,” he said.

“That was always the problem – people always said ‘Oh you play rugby in Europe? What’s the deal with that?’ They never really understood that sometimes we play games with 80,000 people in the Stade de France. Definitely my close friends know what’s going on and a few family members get to see me on TV once in a while, so it’s pretty cool.”

In a multi-talented family, however, Cudmore is not even the most well-known member. While youngest brother Luke has also earned international rugby honours, middle brother Daniel is a Hollywood actor. Even taller than Jamie, the 31-year-old is best known for playing mutant superhero Colossus in the X-Men films. “Are you talking about the big shot?,” Cudmore laughed, when asked about Daniel.

“Yeah, he’s had some good success with the movies, with X-Men and the last three Twilight films, and he’s got a new one coming out, The Baytown Disco.

“Daniel played a bit too but he can’t get too stuck in with the rugby and start breaking your nose . . . it mightn’t look too good on the big screen.”

As impressive as Daniel Cudmore’s CV is, though, Jamie is hoping to add to his own list of accolades. While Clermont also have the French Top 14 semi-finals on their mind, he admits Europe was a target this year. “We’ve always kind of gone for it but I don’t think we’ve really had as well-rounded a squad as we have this year,” he said.

“We’ve got quality everywhere. You switch almost the whole team, like we did the last couple of weeks, and the same quality comes through. We’ve had a good dynamic in the group as well, so I think it’s showing on the field.”