Why west remains best for Bandon’s French coach

First, there is no defection. Regis Sonnes, recently appointed Rugby Director with Bandon RFC and a highly-rated coach with Bandon Grammar School, is going nowhere.

He wouldn’t have given up a much better paid professional position in France and then turn his back on a firm commitment to advance rugby in Bandon and West Cork. 

Sonnes yesterday watched his new club advance to the quarter-finals of the Munster Junior Cup yesterday at the expense of gritty Galbally on a 19-7 scoreline.

For those who wouldn’t recognise the name, Sonnes has a decent track record as coach and player in France and Spain. 

Last week, there was speculation Sonnes was about to jump ship from a two-year contract with Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar School.

It was never an option, he insists, and he was disturbed to learn that something like that could even get into the public domain.

“It certainly didn’t come from me, that rumour. I’ve been tremendously happy, my family has been tremendously happy since our arrival last year. 

"I came here with a mission to help build up the club and school, so why should I leave so soon? Anyway, there was no discussion with anyone.”

Sonnes has overseen Bandon’s progress into the last eight of the prestigious Munster Junior Cup, they’re in the hunt for honours in the Junior League and the Grammar have reached the semi-finals of the Schools Cup for the first time.

It’s all guns blazing, but Sonnes has helped others identify areas where there is, simply, still a need for improvement.

He appears to be a remarkable character in many respects. He has been involved in French Top 14 victories with Toulouse, he has coached at many levels in the professional era but also took time out to “enjoy life and go surfing for a year”.

“It wasn’t about me. I have family, we like to enjoy life and coming to Ireland was a big opportunity. We all love the area and it is all a question of lifestyle. 

"There may be other opportunities in the future but, for now, I am happy to assist Bandon RFC and Bandon School to make things better and help progress rugby in the area.”

Amazingly, Sonnes went from coaching a star-studded line-up at Bordeaux Begles to working with amateur players in West Cork.

The surprise move was made possible because the rugby club decided to partner with Bandon Grammar School to pool their resources together in order to afford a top class full-time coach who could service both teams.

Previous reports said that the club took the Frenchman and his wife around West Cork to see the scenery and get a sense of the place.

The story was touted in France because it was such an unusual departure to move to amateur rugby after all his time as player and coach in the professional era, including working with the Spanish national side.

Sonnes enjoyed a decorated playing career under Guy Noves at Toulouse, winning Top 14 titles in 1994 and 1995 — before taking a year out of rugby where he spent most of his time surfing before returning to win yet another French championship with the club. He then moved to Brive, where he was on the losing side in the 1998 Heineken Cup final.

According to a spokesperson from Bandon at the time of his signing: “He is certainly not coming for the salary, a combination of working full-time with a club and a school, moving his family to a new culture together with the attractiveness of West Cork sold the job to him and his wife.”

Bandon is a team on the up, having made the semi-final of the Munster Junior Cup last year while also finishing runner-up in the Junior Division 1 league, having been promoted the previous season.

But Bandon RFC President Ricky O’Sullivan is taking things up another level. “We’re dead keen on having somebody like Regis on board to help us up a notch.”



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