Canada's Jamie Cudmore on the 'Americas Six Nations', Twitter mistakes and life outside rugby
James Harrington
January 29, 2016
© Michael Steele/Getty Images

Jamie Cudmore was one of Canada's standout performers at last year's World Cup -- but the veteran lock will take on an different role with the Canucks when the Americas Rugby Championship kicks off in February.

The 37-year-old Cudmore beat the odds to play at the World Cup after coming through what he described as a "very scary" three-month period last summer as he recovered from a series of concussions that dragged him to the brink of retirement.

Another injury -- a herniated disc in his neck -- means he cannot line up with his Canada teammates against Uruguay at Langford's Westhills Stadium on February 6 in the opening match of the reinaugurated tournament, the Americas' version of the Six Nations which also features an Argentina 'A' side, Chile, the U.S. and Brazil.

But his presence will still be felt: "I'll be coaching Canada's forwards -- I'm really excited about that," he tells ESPN.

The Clermont Auvergne lock believes the latest attempt to develop an international tournament in the Americas can only be good for the game.

"I think it's something we have always needed," he says. "The United States and Canada are relatively young rugby nations but there's a lot of people who put a lot of work into it -- and we have some really good talent.

"You have seen the guys who came over to England during the World Cup last year, and others like DTH van der Merwe, Jebb Sinclair and other guys who play in the Premiership week in, week out. These guys can play with the best of them.

"Basically, we need more games together so that we can grow as a nation. Look at Italy over the last 10 years, being in the Six Nations has made them better, and their club system has gotten better because they have high-quality competition week in, week out.

"That's what we need. An 'Americas Six Nations' is huge for us. It's exactly what we need and it's definitely going to help rugby grow in North America, which I think is a huge market."

The Canada coaching role could not have come at a better time. Cudmore is facing an unspecified sanction after sending what he described as a "tweet in anger" following Clermont's shock pool-stage exit from the European Champions Cup.

The tweet was posted shortly after last season's losing finalists were dumped out of the competition in a thrilling encounter with Bordeaux at Stade Marcel Michelin. Morgan Parra turned down a straightforward late penalty kick at goal that would have given the Clermontois the losing bonus point they needed to book a place in the knockout phase of the competition.

Cudmore later clarified his position with another tweet: "To be clear the TEAM is as one and will get to work to bring some hardware home this June!" He also apologised to club officials two days later, but president Eric De Cromieres told media that the player would "receive an appropriate punishment".

Head coach Franck Azema revealed he was unhappy that Cudmore had aired his grievances in public. "Of course it affected me. I would also prefer that it was said within the group," he said at the time.

The player admitted that he was not prepared for the outcry his tweet, which has been retweeted more than 650 times, caused. "I didn't really know what to think," he says. "It was more of a tweet in anger and I think it was maybe a bit displaced and it was probably not the best time to do it, but it is something that has been boiling under the surface for me."

But, he insists, "it is no reflection on the team or the coaching staff".

Cudmore's neck injury will keep him out of action until at least April. "It's something that has been bothering me for the last couple of years. We only found out after last season's [Top 14] final when I first saw the doctors that I had a herniated disc.

"Having a few months off during the summer helped me recover. But then there was the World Cup and obviously winter in France is always a tough time, with Champions Cup games and big games in the Top 14.

"I managed to get through most of that. But then around Christmas it got so painful and was hindering my ability to play so we got another MRI and saw that it had got worse.

"I was having trouble with numbness in my hands. I couldn't sleep without having my arm above my head -- typical problems around your neck which kind of radiate all around your upper body.

"I'm happy now that it is being properly dealt with. I'm on the road to recovery."

With a touch of gallows humour, he adds: "Hopefully I can get back around the end of April, May, June -- that'll give me a couple of months because the season goes even longer here than it has even in the past few years."

Jamie Cudmore
Jamie Cudmore© (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

A combination of fixture rescheduling caused by the World Cup and football's Euro 2016 finals in France means this season's Top 14 final takes place on June 24.

"It's ridiculous," Cudmore says of the lengthy French domestic season. "Then they want us to start again at the beginning of August. I don't really understand how they can expect the players to play 11 months of the year.

"I think they've got to do something. I'm especially, thinking of the international players.

"These guys play all the big games for their clubs. They play all the big internationals in November, all the games in the Six Nations, and then they're expected to go on a summer tour. I don't know when they're expected to regenerate and get healthy.

"Obviously, people come back with the fact that rugby players are well paid, but you still need a certain time to recover. Rugby is such a high-impact and attacking sport these days that you can't do it all year round."

Pointing to the shorter NFL season, Cudmore says: "These guys play for 15, 16, 18 weeks. They can't do much more. I think if they manage to cut down the league, or cut it in two and have two different pools or do something, it would go a long way to preserving the health of a lot of guys."

Cudmore's contract with Clermont runs out at the end of the season, but the man who has played 212 times in the yellow and blue still believes he has something to give on the pitch, whether he stays in France or heads over the Channel. "I've been very fortunate to have some good offers in France and in England. I'm studying those closely. I still have that desire to play, to compete."

Even though he hopes to cheat retirement for a while longer, Cudmore is looking to his post-rugby future. As well as coaching, he is the charmingly grizzled public face of Sin Bin Wines, a company he set up with his wife, which plays on his reputation as a rugby bad boy.

Sin Bin produces three wines -- a red, a white and a rose, called respectively Red Card, Yellow Card and Third Half.

"We've been going just a year now and everything's going very well," he says. "It was an initiative of my wife, who went to business school here in Grenoble and then in Oxford a few years ago. We worked on that for a few months last year. We knew we had a cave right next to our house and they were able to produce the volume we wanted, so we thought 'why not work with somebody local?' That is really important to us. We can export a bit of Auvergne around France and around the world and it has been a great success."

Cudmore reveals they are planning to expand their range -- "We're looking to bring a Bordeaux into our line" -- but first priority is the oval ball.

"I'm very lucky to still have opportunities, for people to want me to play for them," he says. "We'll see basically how the next few months go -- but maybe here in France, maybe in England, who knows?"

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