Northern Ireland news

Hurling the best game to develop players for rugby says coach of European heavyweight

Toulouse joint head coach, Regis Sonnes believes hurling is the best game to develop players for rugby
Gareth McKeown

THE joint head coach of one of the world's most famous rugby clubs has said that hurling is the best game to develop players for the sport.

Regis Sonnes, who coaches four-time European champions Toulouse, believes the the necessary skills required for the Irish sport are transferable on to the rugby pitch.

Speaking to RTÉ, Mr Sonnes, who coached for two years in west Cork at Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammer School before returning to France in March, said he quickly became a fan of the sport, attending games in his spare time.

"I wanted to connect with the people," he said.

"I saw first-hand the power of hurling. It is the best game to develop players for rugby."

The catching and kicking of west Cork football was also utlilised in the coach's methods as he wished to play an expansive style of rugby.

A former player under Sonnes further revealed that the French coach actively encouraged participation in hurling, despite the obvious conflict with rugby.

Jack Crowley, the captain of Bandon Grammer School senior cup rugby team told the story of how in his very first meeting with students the French coach referenced the GAA community and how he gave permission for him to miss training to play an important match for his local club.

During Sonnes' time in Cork Bandon Grammer won the Junior Cup and reached the semi-finals of the Munster Senior Cup, while Bandon RFC claimed silverware in the Munster Junior Cup.

After the two-year stint in Ireland, Sonnes returned to his native France to coach at Toulouse, where he has overseen an upturn in fortunes, with the side third in the Top 14 and top of a European Champions Cup pool containing champions Leinster.

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