REGIS Sonnes is about to take on one of the biggest jobs in European club rugby and is convinced that his time spent in Bandon has made him a better coach.
The French native is coming to the end of his second year involved with Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar School, and while he has loved every moment of his West Cork adventure, Sonnes is set to leave these shores to join French giants Toulouse as co-coach.
A former Toulouse back row who won Top 14 titles under Guy Noves in the mid 1990s, Sonnes (pictured) will link up with current boss Ugo Mola – and Sonnes told The Southern Star that it’s a job offer that he couldn’t turn down.
‘They called me last year but I was involved with the college and the club here in Bandon, so I said no,’ he said.
‘They came back again in November to speak so we did. It was a difficult decision because I am very involved in Bandon and would like to finish the cycle with the lads in the college and the club.
‘It is a huge opportunity for me and it was difficult to say no two times.
‘It’s a little bit different from what I have done before so it is interesting.’
He added: ‘It is hard to say goodbye – but everyone here understands that it is a big opportunity to work with a professional squad. It is too difficult to say no, I have to take it.’
Sonnes’ arrival in Bandon made headline news in 2016 and his influence has been very positive. He came on board with both Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar School, coach with the former and head of rugby with the latter, with an impressive rugby CV behind him including four years as Bordeaux Beagles forwards coach and a spell in charge of the Spanish national team.
Stepping out of the professional world of rugby into the amateur game with Bandon was just the experience that Sonnes wanted, and he feels he will leave West Cork a better coach because of that.
‘I have learned a lot here, and to be part of the strategy of education in the college was very important for me. That was new for me and I liked it,’ he said.
‘When you are professional you have the players whenever you want a lot of time to coach and you have everything you want – but here in Bandon we have two trainings per week so I have to be very precise in those trainings, to get my message to the players.
‘I’ve learned a lot about amateur rugby, about their motivation and objective to come to training and to play for Bandon.
‘I learned a lot here. It is part of my process and my development. This has been very good for me.’
Moving back to France in June, Sonnes is hoping to sign off on a high note with Bandon in the Munster Junior League Division 1 as two bonus-point wins in their final two games will see them win the league.
‘It would be fantastic. We have worked hard the last two years. We won the Munster Junior Cup last season. The league is difficult, you need to be good in every game. It would be huge for the club and everyone involved to win the league.’