A month of mood swings, headaches and insomnia almost forced Canada captain Jamie Cudmore to abandon his World Cup plans and retire this summer.
Veteran Clermont lock Cudmore was forced into a three-month lay-off after a string of concussion problems, reaching the brink of retirement before making a full recovery.
The muscle-bound second row celebrated his 37th birthday in Canada’s final World Cup warm-up clash against Fiji, a 47-18 defeat at The Stoop on September 6.
Cudmore will now lead Canada’s bid to upset the odds in a Pool D campaign that starts by facing Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday week.
“I had three months off. I went through all the protocols and all the tests, the neurological work-ups and stuff,” Cudmore said.
“It was very scary – the whole month of June I was sitting on my couch, I couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t really do anything.
“I was stuck between the World Cup and retirement.
“I had all kinds of symptoms: headaches, being very irritable, tired when you shouldn’t be tired, then being really tired and not being able to sleep.
“That was really bizarre, just lying down and closing your eyes and not being able to sleep.
“It was tough, but thankfully with rest and the right medical help I’m out the other side.”
His summer health scare carefully negotiated, Cudmore is intent on plying his physical trade as long as possible.
While most enforcers are already into retirement by their mid-30s, Cudmore is as comfortable as ever hitting rucks and leading lineouts.
The Squamish native grew up working club doors, logging trees and breaking down cars before rugby transformed his life.
Some 20 years down the line, he still keeps his real-world experience in the forefront of his mind, as much for perspective as motivation.
“It’s cliched to say it but I’m living the dream,” said Cudmore.
“I’ve worked before... I don’t want to go back to that right away!
“I logged trees, I built houses, I was in construction, I worked in a wrecking yard breaking cars down, I was a doorman, all kinds of jobs.
“I’m very happy to be able to be paid to play rugby, I’m very lucky, and so I’m determined to have fun doing it.
“And I’m going to keep going as long as I can.
“You get found out pretty quick if you can’t move your ass logging trees.
“We used to have a race every morning to see who could get wet the fastest.
“You’ve got to get wet to get warm – the faster you get wet, the faster you get warm, then you’re good to go all day.”
Cudmore is determined not to let professionalism disintegrate his sport.
Clermont’s long-serving lock cites the “football attitude” as the greatest threat to rugby’s traditional anchors of respect and humility.
“That’s a key, key thing, keeping rugby’s ethics,” said Cudmore.
“You play hard, you shake hands – there’s a good level of respect.
“I can see it already with guys coming through the academies, that football attitude is not far off, for some.
“If those values disappear we’re going to go the way that soccer’s already gone, and that would be really sad for the game that I love.
“That’s the biggest thing I try to instil when I coach, to make sure that the good ethic is protected.”