Canadian enforcer Jamie Cudmore still living the dream

Secondrow set to renew acquaintance with old sparring partner Paul O’Connell

Canada’s lock Jamie Cudmore:  “That’s a key thing, keeping rugby’s ethics. You play hard, you shake hands – there’s a good level of respect.” Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Canada’s lock Jamie Cudmore: “That’s a key thing, keeping rugby’s ethics. You play hard, you shake hands – there’s a good level of respect.” Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

 

It’s tempting to cast Jamie Cudmore in the role of pantomime villain, but there is nothing cartoonish about the periodic fistic confrontations that have pockmarked his career on a rugby pitch. Just ask those on the receiving end.

Whether with Clermont Auvergne or Canada, the 37-year- old generally places himself at the centre of any schemozzle, either as instigator or first responder, red and yellow cards tumbling like confetti.

There’s no arguing that he possesses a sense of humour as he started his own wine label, appropriately called Sin Bin, bearing red and yellow labels.

He explained in a recent Rugby World magazine article: “We (his wife Jennifer put the business plan together) wanted to poke fun at my disciplinary record and so that’s why we came up with the tongue-in-cheek name.

“But it’s good for me to create something for my life after the rugby. I’m nearing the end of my career and soon the cheques are going to stop arriving at the end of each month.”

Before then he will lead Canada in the World Cup, the first game of which pits them against Ireland at the Millennium stadium on Saturday week and Cudmore against an old nemesis in Paul O’Connell.

There’s plenty of footage from December 2008 at Thomond Park when Cudmore, playing for Clermont in a Heineken Cup match, unloaded a barrage of punches, before O’Connell, having looked towards the touch judge as witness material, retaliated. The Canadian saw red, the Irishman yellow.

Five years later, in 2013, Cudmore wasn’t averse to throwing another dig at his old sparring partner, O’Connell, this time on Twitter regarding the Dave Kearney incident.

His tweet read: “How long for a kick in the head these days,” drawing a response from Nathan Hines through the same medium: “You know the answer to that question boss.”

Enforcer

The sport has exacted a significant toll, with shoulder reconstructions and sundry injuries, before last June presenting him with a potentially more debilitating setback.

Diagnosed with concussion, and not for the first time in his rugby days, Cuddles, as he is known to his team-mates, was forced into a three-month layoff.

At that point retirement, rather than the World Cup, looked a more realistic knock-on effect. He explained: “I had three months off. I went through all the protocols and all the tests, the neurological work-ups and stuff.

“It was very scary. The whole month of June I was sitting on my couch. I couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t really do anything. I was stuck between the World Cup and retirement.

“I had all kinds of symptoms: headaches, being very irritable, tired when you shouldn’t be tired, then being really tired and not being able to sleep. That was really bizarre, just lying down and closing your eyes and not being able to sleep. It was tough, but thankfully with rest and the right medical help I’m out the other side.”

Living the dream

“I’ve worked before; I don’t want to go back to that right away. I logged trees, I built houses, I was in construction, I worked in a wrecking yard breaking cars down, I was a doorman, all kinds of jobs.

“I’m very happy to be able to be paid to play rugby, I’m very lucky, and so I’m determined to have fun doing it. And I’m going to keep going as long as I can. You get found out pretty quick if you can’t move your ass logging trees.”

There doesn’t appear to be any sense of irony in Cudmore holding forth on the dangers to the moral fibre of the game in terms of respect for teammates, and presumably, opponents

He champions the old fashioned attitude that all grievances on a pitch can be absolved with a handshake.

The theory and practice might blur a little. He ventured though: “That’s a key, key thing, keeping rugby’s ethics. You play hard, you shake hands – there’s a good level of respect.

“I can see it already with guys coming through the academies, that football attitude is not far off, for some. If those values disappear we’re going to go the way that soccer’s already gone, and that would be really sad for the game that I love. That’s the biggest thing I try to instil when I coach, to make sure that the good ethic is protected.”

Indeed.

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