Sitting in a hotel room in Australia in June watching England play the Springboks on television is not an experience Andy Farrell is keen to repeat. "I wanted to be on a walkie-talkie shouting messages," he revealed, talking for the first time about the coaching "dilemma" which initially led him to reject a permanent job with England. What changed his mind was a gnawing fear the opportunity might never come again.
No wonder he looked so happy this week at the launch of the BMW performance academy, English rugby's latest attempt to fast-track its young talent. For a competitor such as Farrell, the international arena was always going to exert a magnetic pull and the former rugby league Man of Steel is back in his element. The only surprise was that he fought it as long as he did.
The 37-year-old admits he made a mistake in turning down England and Stuart Lancaster last April, blinded by loyalty to his club, Saracens, who had stood by him in the injury-hit twilight of his playing career. "I'd had a great time when I did the interim job with England and I wanted to be involved, but the dilemma was so great. I was at a fantastic club, working with good people. I didn't want to let my mates down. Against that was a job working with the cream of the country's talent at the start of what we believe is something special.
"It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster … it was weird seeing the boys go off to South Africa. But after I'd been on holiday at the end of the season and spent time reflecting it became a lot clearer. You never know if the chance will come again, do you? Everyone wants to coach the national side."
Ironically, he feels he will be more of an asset to England than he would have been had he toured South Africa. For the first time in his life he had time to further his personal development and visited several teams in Australia to research different coaching methods, including two Aussie Rules clubs. "I'll definitely be a better coach. When Stuart first took the job on an interim basis there wasn't much chance to prepare. There's more time now."
One of his first tasks will be to help Lancaster settle on his best midfield combinations, a task complicated by the presence in the squad of Farrell's son Owen. The fly-half, who turned 21 this week, has not enjoyed an unblemished start to the season but Farrell senior remains adamant that, for now, No10 is his best position. "At this stage I think he's a 10. In the future he could be 10 or 12, but at the moment the thought at Saracens is for him to develop as a 10."
Farrell insists he will treat all England's fly-half contenders the same. "It's about honesty and putting the emotional stuff aside. It's never been a problem at club level and it won't be here because, ultimately, Stuart makes the decisions. The only aim is for England to do well and nothing will get in the way of that."
He is equally confident his son will not get carried away by the superstar labels pinned on him last season. "You can tell by whether he goes to the opening of an envelope or whether he wants to stay at home and concentrate on his rugby. His feet are still firmly on the ground."
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