Veteran Canadian rugby international Jamie Cudmore has signed a four-year contract with French side Oyonnax that will ultimately see him serve as head coach.
The 37-year-old lock forward from Squamish, B.C., has agreed to a deal that will see him play for two more years before moving to the sidelines, according to a source.
The deal prompted Cudmore to turn down an assistant coaching role with the Canadian men's team under newly hired head coach Mark Anscombe, a New Zealander. Rugby Canada has committed to having a Canadian assistant coach and Cudmore was drafted to help interim coach Francois Ratier with the Canadian men at the Americas Rugby Championship earlier this year.
He was able to help Canada during the beginning of that tournament as he recovered from surgery needed to correct several years of pain caused by a herniated disc in his neck that was putting pressure on his spinal column.
Cudmore, a hard-nosed professional who is arguably Canada's most famous current rugby export, is out of contract with Clermont Auvergne at the end of the season. He has made more than 200 appearances for the storied French club since joining in 2005.
Oyonnax, located in eastern France near the Swiss border, currently stands 13th in the French Top 14 standings with a 4-15-0 record. Founded in 1909, it plays at Stade Charles-Mathon and was promoted to the top tier of French rugby in 2013.
Cudmore, who also has coaching experience from the Clermont academy, had previously been linked to moves as a player to England's Gloucester and France's Lyon.
The six-foot-five 255-pound enforcer affectionately known as Cuddles is no stranger to the rugby authorities but has trangressed less often recently. He has won 39 caps for Canada and served as skipper at last fall's World Cup — his fourth — when regular captain Tyler Ardron was injured.
Fluently bilingual from his time in France, Cudmore drew laughs during last fall's World Cup when he wandered — deliberately — into a French huddle before a lineout, only to be dragged away by a French forward when he was finally noticed.
An entrepreneur away from the rugby field along with wife Jennifer, he owned a restaurant and bar in France. They are now concentrating on a wine label called Sin Bin Wine.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press