Clermont lock Jamie Cudmore looks ahead to the European Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens and talks about his new wine label

In his ten years at Clermont, Jamie Cudmore has become a cult figure for the Yellow & Blue faithful who know him as “le bûcheron” (the lumberjack). The Canadian second-row has recently signed a one-year extension with the club and his physical presence inspires team-mates while intimidating opponents. But underneath the rugged 6ft 5in exterior, 36-year-old Cudmore is something of a wine connoisseur and has recently launched his own label – Sin Bin wine, playing on his reputation as a player who’s received the odd red and yellow card in his time.

Rugby World caught up with him ahead of Clermont’s European Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens on Saturday…

Rugby World: Any inkling before the Saints game that Clermont were going to touch greatness?
Jamie Cudmore: It’s hard to say that we knew it was going to work out as well as it did (Clermont beat Northampton 37-5). We trained really hard during the week and knew we were facing some serious competition, and we switched it on.

RW: A lot of people were predicting Saints lock Courtney Lawes would do to Clermont what he did to France…
JC: I don’t focus on that kind of stuff. The game is so fast, there’s so much to remember, so many calls to focus on, that I’m too busy fulfilling my role to think about opponents.

RW: How long does it take you personally to get in the zone before a match?
JC: Doesn’t take long. Perhaps a few years ago I would have got in game mode a day before but I find that’s too early now. So during the day of a game I’m a normal guy, spending it with the kids, just doing normal things. It’s only when I’m strapping my boots that it’s time to go.

RW: How do you feel about your image as an enforcer?
JC: I’m not too worried about how I’m perceived. It’s funny and I play up to it at times, the whole pantomime villain thing.

RW: So you’re a bit of a wine buff on the side?
JC: The concept of the wine came from my wife, Jennifer. She put the business plan together when she was studying her MBA at Oxford and we let it lie while we were growing a family, then last year she wanted to get back into work and we decided to do the wine. The wine is from down the road from where we live. So it’s Auvergne, it’s local, and that’s important because we love this region and we want the wine to reflect that.

Jamie Cudmore

Making a toast: Cudmore shows off his new range of Sin Bin wines from the Auvergne region

RW: Whose idea was it to call your label ‘Sin Bin’?
JC: We wanted to poke fun at my disciplinary record and so that’s why we came up with the tongue-in-cheek name. But it’s good for me to create something for my life after the rugby. I’m nearing the end of my career and soon the cheques are going to stop arriving at the end of each month.

RW: How does the 36-year-old Cudmore train differently to the 26-year-old one?
JC: It’s about training smarter, not harder. Ten years ago I could do contact the whole week and still be fresh on a Saturday. Now I still work really hard on the technical details but I know which contacts to take a step back from during the week.

RW: The Top 14 still has another two months to run. Can Clermont last the pace?
JC: I think the boys are looking really good. We’re seeing a lot of the younger boys coming through, and some of the older players had some time off during the Six Nations so we’re building towards a crescendo. In the past we have sometimes struggled at this stage but the squad is really strong this year and there’s a great camaraderie.

RW: Describe the camaraderie.
JC: We spend enormous amounts of time together and we’re lucky to have that balance in the squad so we know when to joke around and when to work hard, and that’s because of the respect for each other that runs through the squad.

RW: What should we read into Saturday’s shock home defeat to Oyonnax?
JC: Nothing should be read into it, other than we lost to a very strong and pragmatic team with 15 (Clermont) changes from the week before. As always Euro Cup week ramps (it) up. Everyone’s focused and we will be ready to conquer on Saturday!

RW: Can you hit the heights against Saracens that you did against Saints?
JC: We have to stay hungry and humble. It’s the hunger that makes a team continue to perform; hunger to win the scrum, the lineouts, to make the tackles, to win the breakdown. The hungriest team will win.