09/16/2011 01:33 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 01:34 EST

French say Canada lock Cudmore is 'adorable' and no longer a 'bad boy' of rugby

NAPIER, New Zealand - As Canada's fearsome lock Jamie Cudmore prepares to play France at the Rugby World Cup, his club teammates at Clermont Auvergne say he is a reformed character and describe him as "adorable."

In January, Cudmore was given a 40-day ban for punching Perpignan's Gregory Le Corvec. He was banned for 10 weeks for stamping on Saracens flanker Jacques Burger in a 2010 Heineken Cup match, and he was suspended for five weeks in 2008 for punching Munster lock Paul O'Connell.

However, his opponents in Sunday's Pool A match at McLean Park know a different side to the Canadian hard man.

"He's an adorable bloke. We won't try and wind him up because we know he's tough," France lock Julien Pierre said. "You just have to try and control him. He's no longer the bad boy people spoke about before, he focuses on his game more now."

Pierre and Cudmore became good friends from playing together in France's Top 14 league, and have been contacting each other during the World Cup.

"We swapped text messages last week because it was his birthday," Pierre said. "I've since been in touch with him by email."

Quite how "adorable" Cudmore is on Sunday remains to be seen, especially since the Canadians' momentum is building following their 25-20 win against Tonga this week.

Cudmore may have a special surprise in store for his Clermont teammates, which also include scrum half Morgan Parra and winger Aurelien Rougerie. They are also starting the game, giving the Canadian plenty of opportunity to put in a few crunching tackles.

"You shouldn't rub him up the wrong way, he's impulsive," said Bonnaire, who wins his 65th cap on Sunday. "It can happen that he blows a fuse, but less often than in the past. He's calmed down a bit."

But Cudmore says he's suffered just as much as his opponents have over the years.

"I'm a marked man every game I play," Cudmore told The Associated Press. "Nothing is going to change that."

Cudmore and flanker Adam Kleeberger were both on the field last time the teams met, six years ago in Nantes, when France scored 25 points in each half and ran in seven tries to overwhelm the Canadians 50-6.

"I trust Jamie Cudmore and his teammates won't release their prey," said Rougerie, who will captain the side.

Flanker Imanol Harinordoquy also holds Cudmore in high esteem.

"Cudmore is a redoubtable opponent," Harinordoquy said. "He's made a name for himself. He's a good, strong second row who likes to attack when he has the ball, who likes putting in big tackles. He plays hard -- but he's a Canadian, a good old lumberjack."