Andy Farrell’s passion for the British and Irish Lions stems from watching men he knows well savouring victory in 1997.
The 1997 tour – when the Lions last claimed a series victory – featured many players Farrell played with and against during his rugby league career before he switched to union in 2005.
Scott Gibbs, Scott Quinnell, Alan Tait, John Bentley, Allan Bateman and Dai Young were all part of the series success in South Africa, which has become folklore thanks in part to a documentary Living With Lions.
“To see what it meant to them sticks out in my mind,” Farrell said.
“It’s something that I would’ve hoped to have been involved in as a player, but things didn’t work out.
“It’s always been a dream to be associated in some way, whether as a player or a coach. It’s brilliant that it’s come around.”
A rapid rise has seen Farrell appointed as one of head coach Warren Gatland’s assistants for the 2013 tour to Australia.
After working with Stuart Lancaster with England Saxons, Farrell was invited to be part of the interim coaching set-up during the 2012 RBS 6 Nations and was included in the permanent England group after a protracted departure from Saracens.
The 37-year-old said: “It’s been a hell of a year so far. It’s unbelievable.
“I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity like this early in a coaching career. It’s something I’m very proud of as well.”
Farrell, as a fresh option, was preferred to Shaun Edwards, who was part of the coaching party in 2009, with Gatland impressed by what he has heard of the dual-code international.
“I’ve had quite a lot of experiences of bringing teams together,” said Farrell, who will have responsibility for defence, but input into all areas of the game. “That’s the biggest challenge of this gig, bringing world-class players together as soon as possible and trying to get everyone on the same page.”
Farrell is good friends with Edwards, another former Wigan rugby league captain, and insists the pair will remain close.
His background in league means he is well aware of the challenge of beating Australia.
Asked if any particular victories stood out, Farrell said “there weren’t that many”, before selecting the 1994 World Club Challenge when Wigan claimed a surprise 20-14 win over Brisbane in Queensland.
Brisbane is also the venue for the first Lions Test on June 22.
“We weren’t given a cat in hell’s chance of going over there in their own back yard and winning,” Farrell said. “We turned them over, which was a big shock for everyone.”