Transform frustration into ambition, says Bordeaux coach Urios

by Nicholas MC ANALLY
Bordeaux-Begles' coach Christophe Urios said he was frustrated after the Top 14 leaders were deprived of a chance to win the title

Bordeaux-Begles, fired by majestic Fijian back Semi Radradra, were runaway leaders when the Top 14 was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting an end to their hopes of a first championship title since 1991.

While coach Christophe Urios lamented the poor timing of the COVID-19 outbreak, he insisted he was left feeling more frustrated than bitter.

"We were in an incredible dynamic," Urios told AFP in an interview.

"We were coming out of a stage where we had revisited the project, recovered our internationals.

"We had very clear ideas on our end to the season. It was complicated, but I was convinced we'd be crowned champions."

Urios, who won the French championships with Castres in 2018, stressed that "frustration must transform itself into ambition".

The Bordeaux-Begles squad had returned to training "excited, tanned and rested", Urios estimating that 80-85% were in "acceptable shape".

"No problem with the weight, but a lot of desire to get hands on the ball again."

One player yet to return, however, is monster prop Ben Tameifuna, the New Zealand-born Tonga international.

Tameifuna reportedly once topped the scales at 160kg (25st 2lb) when at Bordeaux's Top 14 rivals Racing 92, and Urios, no lightweight himself, joked that the club cook might not be happy to see them both back.

"The one who'll be most pissed off is our chef. When he sees Ben Tameifuna and myself coming through the doors, he's going to be trembling!" said the former Castres hooker.

More seriously, the coach continued: "We know Ben has this weight problem. We've been in contact with him because he's still in New Zealand.

"He gets back on June 26, ready to attack from July 1. We know he has this weakness, but we feel that he's not too bad for the moment."

- Sad for Semi, excited by Lam -

Urios admitted he was sad yet accepting that outstanding Fijian wing/centre Radradra had signed for Bristol in the English Premiership.

"Semi produced a top-class season for us," Urios told AFP, adding that he had "completely integrated" into the Bordeaux squad, opening up as he hadn't previously.

"When you recruit someone, when you manage your team, you don't replace one player by another type-for-type because there are players who can be difficult to find on the market.

"Semi was one of those. There maybe aren't any players capable of playing like Semi."

Urios waxed lyrical, however, about the "incredible" Ben Lam, who will join the southwestern French club from the Hurricanes for the coming season.

"He's a player with a different profile," Urios said of the 29-year-old winger. "We'll be sad to see Semi go because he's a great guy with many qualities.

But Lam, Urios added, was a "top-level decision-maker" who is a proven try scorer in Super Rugby off the back of his time with the New Zealand sevens team.

"Ben's very dangerous with ball in hand, he makes an effort off his wing.

"He's one of the players we miss. We want to see them all very soon in Bordeaux-Begles shirts because we know they'll bring us added value, notably physically."

Bordeaux-Begles' coach Christophe Urios said he was frustrated after the Top 14 leaders were deprived of a chance to win the title