Canada’s former rugby captain is looking to rebuild bridges and come back


Jamie Cudmore, originally from Squamish, has since been coaching in Newfoundland with a contract that expires at the end of November.

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Former Canadian rugby captain Jamie Cudmore thinks he has a lot more to give to the game. Now he hopes others will agree.

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Cudmore, 44, lost his job as head of Rugby Canada’s national development academy (better known as Pacific Pride) and assistant coach of the Canadian men’s 15-year-old team in July 2021 after several social media posts criticizing the Canadian women’s sevens team. disappointing performance at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Cudmore, a native of Squamish, has been coaching in Newfoundland ever since, with a contract expiring at the end of November. He doesn’t know what will come next, but he is grateful to those who helped bring him back as a coach.

“If I can stay here and continue to build here with the great people who have opened their arms to have us here and help build rugby on the East Coast, I would happily do so,” Cudmore said in an interview. “But to be honest, I kinda want to get into professional rugby. It’s been my life for 20, 22 years.

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“If I can help locally and professionally, well, that’s the perfect scenario for me,” he added.

On the road, his focus hasn’t changed. He wants to coach the men’s national team.

“My original goal coming back to Canada was to lead the national team,” said Cudmore, who became an iconic figure during his playing days in France. “I believe that with my experience in France, coaching in the Top 14 (French premier league), being general manager in the second division (Rugby Pro D2 with Provence Rugby), my history with Rugby Canada for over 20 years now, playing and captain our side.

“I think I have the understanding of our landscape and our players, as well as the global game, to do well. But I had no idea what kind of complicated situation I was going into in 2019 (with Rugby Canada) until I walked into the building.

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An independent review of Rugby Canada’s high performance programs, released in March, painted a damning picture of a dysfunctional organization at odds with its athletes, staff and fans.

Rugby Canada president Sally Dennis and recently hired CEO Nathan Bombrys are tasked with restoring the governing body.

The Canadian men, coached by Kingsley Jones, are rebuilding after failing to qualify for the 2023 World Cup. Cudmore says he has a good relationship with Jones and has shared his goals and views with the ex-Wales captain, who took over the Canadian men’s program in 2017.

Cudmore’s career at Rugby Canada ended quickly after his critical social media posts in 2021. “A heavy price,” he said.

He raised his hand and quickly apologized but was removed from his post soon after. Rugby Canada called the posts “unacceptable and in breach of organization policy”.

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“It was an emotional event for a good friend and I let it get the better of me,” Cudmore said on Twitter at the time. “I have always played/coached with my heart on my sleeve for this great country. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

The good friend is John Tait, who resigned as women’s coach at seven after a complaint of bullying and harassment of current and former players ahead of the Olympics.

A separate independent review later found that while the conduct described in the sevens players’ complaint reflected the athletes’ experiences, it did not meet Rugby Canada’s policy definition of harassment or intimidation.

Tait, while maintaining that he had done nothing wrong, later resigned. The former Canada international is now the technical director of BC Rugby.

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After working with players and coaches in Newfoundland and other provinces, Cudmore is looking to rebuild bridges.

Cudmore has also worked on his own, including a collaboration with Sport Law, a private group “committed to serving sports organizations in their desire to fulfill their mission and live their values”.

“I did the job that I promised to do after this whole incident,” he said.

Cudmore, one of Canada’s most famous rugby exports as a player, has re-emerged as Newfoundland provincial coach thanks to a groundbreaking deal between the Newfoundland and Labrador Rugby Union and a group of supporters from rugby called Canadian GRIT (Grassroots Resources and Ideas Team).

The Newfoundland organization paid a portion of Cudmore’s salary and expenses while GRIT made up the rest. As part of the deal, Cudmore worked with other provincial unions.

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Cudmore has faced other challenges off the court recently. His wife, who is from Newfoundland, has been suffering from health problems lately.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy the last few years, with my wife’s health issues,” he said. “And then with all this kind of kerfuffle with my old employer and everything, it was probably one of the hardest years of my life, to be honest.”

Cudmore played 46 games for Canada between 2002 and 2016 and would have played more had he not been at club level in France, where he won a Top 14 title with ASM Clermont Auvergne. The hard-nosed striker also played for FC Grenoble and Oyonnax in France and Llanelli, Llandovery and the Scarlets in Wales.

He represented Canada at four World Cups (2003, ’07, ’11 and ’15).

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