TORONTO — Canadian Jamie Cudmore enters his fourth Rugby World Cup grateful that he is still able to play the game.
The hard-nosed six-foot-five 255-pounder from Squamish, B.C., one of Canada’s most renowned players, was contemplating retirement prior to the tournament due to a concussion.
“June, July was really tough,” the 37-year-old Cudmore said. “I was honestly thinking about just hanging them up.
“I’m glad that I got the green light through many different doctors.”
Cudmore has long been a physical force on the rugby field. An enforcer who has stepped over the line in the past, he has usually been the one administering the pain.
But an April clash of heads took a terrible toll on him.
The lock forward endured a week where he couldn’t sleep. And there were other concussion-related symptoms.
“Headaches, disorientation. I could never remember what I was supposed to do day-to-day,” he said. “I’d have to have a list of everything written down so I didn’t forget stuff. It was pretty tough. It was an eye-opener because I’ve always kind of been the rough-and-tumble player, I just kind of pushed through the pain. Whereas something like that it’s not a question of pushing through it, you can’t. Your brain runs everything and if it’s not working properly, it penalizes you pretty badly.”
Cudmore, who has played club rugby in France for Clermont Auvergne since 2005, was hurt April 18 in a head-to-head collision in a ruck in the European Cup semifinal against England’s Saracens.
“It was nothing more than an accident in the run of play, two guys going into the ruck at high speed. We just happened to bonk heads.”
Cudmore left the game and went through concussion protocols.
“You can’t mess around with things like a concussion,” he said. “It’s something that’s starting to change in rugby nowadays. Back in the day you kind of rubbed a bit of dirt on it and go, ‘Get back in there.’ But obviously it’s extremely dangerous.”
Still Cudmore wishes he had done some things differently.
“I played a couple of weeks later and I probably shouldn’t have.”
He played the full 80 minutes in Clermont’s 24-18 loss to Toulon on May 2 in the European Cup final at Twickenham. In hindsight, he wishes he had skipped the final and taken a month off.
Cudmore returned to training but took another blow to the head ahead of Clermont’s Top 14 semifinal on June 6.
“I knew that it was no good to go,” he said.
Cudmore missed the Pacific Nations Cup but returned to captain Canada, in the absence of injured skipper Tyler Ardron, for World Cup warmups against the Glasgow Warriors, Georgia and Fiji.
Canadian coach Kieran Crowley is happy to have Cudmore back.
“He’s an icon for rugby in Canada,” said Crowley, a former All Black. “He’s a true professional.”
With one year left on his Clermont contract, Cudmore has no plans to retire yet. But he already has a second and third career.
Cudmore and wife Jennifer, an Oxford grad and MBA, have sold their part-interest in a bar/restaurant, Vinomania, and a sports bar/nightclub, The Five, in their French home.
“She’s tall, beautiful and smart,” he says of his wife.
Now they are focusing on a line of wine called Sin Bin, a reference to rugby’s equivalent of the penalty box — a place Cudmore knows well.
“We’ve just gone over our 100,000 bottle mark,” said Cudmore, who hopes to get the wine into Canada soon.
They also have a rugby PR agency based in London.
Cudmore’s younger brother Daniel is a six-foot-five actor who played Colossus in the “X-Men” franchise and Felix, a Volturi guard, in “The Twilight Saga” movies. Another younger brother Luke has also played for Canada.
Canada, ranked 18th in the world, opens Group D play against No. 2 Ireland on Sept. 19 in Cardiff.
It will be the 36th cap for Cudmore who joins Gareth Rees, Rod Snow, Mike James and Al Charron as the only Canadians to play in four World Cups.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press