Cudmore takes helm of rebooted Pacific Pride rugby academy

Jamie Cudmore credits the old Victoria-based Pacific Pride development program for helping him play in four World Cups for Canada and pro in Europe for big-time clubs such as RFC Grenoble and Clermont Auvergne.

The 40-year-old Squamish product now returns as head coach of the revived program, which will be based in Langford.

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The old Pacific Pride development program, which helped Canada reach the second tier of world rugby, is being rebooted with Cudmore’s appointment as bench helmsman announced Wednesday.

Relaunched as the Rugby Canada Performance Academy, the program’s Westhills Stadium-based main team will be named Pacific Pride in honour of the former team that played in the B.C. Premier League from 1996 to 2005.

The new Pacific Pride will begin play in the B.C. Premier League this season beginning in September.

The original Pacific Pride, essentially the Canadian U-23 team, contributed many of the players who played for Canada in the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cups.

The six-foot-five and nearly 260-pound Cudmore was chief among them — appearing in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups — with 43 caps in total as a rugged lock and flanker.

“I was a Pride player, and it gave me the experience to go off into the world of professional rugby, so I’m very excited to come home and help grow Canadian rugby after all it’s given me over the years,” he said.

“I look forward to getting to work with this young talent from across Canada, focusing on quality high-speed rugby, and building their skill sets to be ready for the next step in their careers.”

Since the demise of the old Pacific Pride program, Canada has seen its position steadily decline to the point where it became the 20th and final qualifier for the upcoming 2019 World Cup in Japan. Future World Cup qualifications, however, appear precarious as nations such as the U.S. and Uruguay have moved ahead in the Americas region. It is hoped the new Pacific Pride model will help stem the Canadian slide.

The reinstated program will be largely composed of uncapped players from across Canada who are projected to be one to three years away from playing at the senior international level. The program will run 10 months of the year at the Rugby Canada National Training Centre in Langford. It will be funded by Rugby Canada through its existing national team centralization budget.

The need for the return of Pacific Pride had become clearly evident.

“There has always been great talent in Canada . . . with more kids getting involved at the youth level,” said Cudmore.

“With dedicated coaching and strong systems in place, I am confident we can continue to grow our player pool, and see success for our national teams, while we help fulfill our individual players’ professional career goals.”

The Paciifc Pride roster will be announced in a few weeks.

Cudmore and wife Jennifer have a wine bar in Clermont, France, and have produced their own labels with names such as Sin Bin, Yellow Card, Red Card and Half Time. After his playing career, Cudmore also turned to the bench and management in rugby and has had experience with big-name French pro clubs, first as Clermont youth academy coach and most recently as director of rugby for Provence.

“I can’t think of a better example for young Canadian players than a Pride alumni, who went on to both represent his country on the international stage and play for some of largest teams in Europe, and who is known for epic battles against some of the most well-known players in the world,” said Dustin Hopkins, Rugby Canada’s managing director for rugby operations.

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