The former school teacher, Sir Ian McGeechan, already had a stellar playing CV behind him before embarking on a coaching career, after injury ended his playing days at just 33. After assisting with Scotland during the 1987 World Cup, he took full charge the following year, and also coached the 1989 Lions to a 2-1 test series win over Australia.
A Grand Slam for Scotland followed in 1990 and they reached the World Cup semi-finals a year later.
After taking the reins at Northampton, McGeechan also returned to Lions duty on the 1993 tour of New Zealand, where they lost the series 2-1.
After further roles with Scotland he arrived at London Wasps replacing Warren Gatland, winning the Anglo Welsh Cup in 2006, the Heineken Cup in 2007 and the Premiership – against Leicester in the final – in 2008.
But it’s McGeechan’s record as coach of three British and Irish Lions tours that establish him on this list as one of the game’s greatest thinkers.
After the 1993 tour to New Zealand, he was back four years later, leading a buccaneering team to a 2-1 win over the world champion Springboks. A year earlier, he had travelled with the New Zealand party to watch them win a series in South Africa for the first time in their history.
He noticed at the end of their victory at the fortress of Ellis Park that the All Blacks were so spent they barely had the energy to raise a smile.
That, McGeechan told his Lions, was what they had to give if they were going to win. Not only did he engender that sort of commitment, McGeechan’s analysis of the opposition allowed him to make selections that raised eyebrows but proved masterstrokes.
Neil Jenkins, the welsh goal-kicking metronome was shifted from fly half to full back to retain his point scoring ability and ensure room in the team for the more dynamic Gregor Townsend.
Rugby League men John Bentley, Alan Tait and Scott Gibbs were used for their hard edge and professional attitude, still something in its infancy in 1997 in the 15-man game.
Small, mobile props Tom Smith and Paul Wallace were picked to get low and underneath the hulking Springbok monsters. In Martin Johnson, McGeechan identified before anyone else that here was a man who led by example, not words, and could stand eye to eye at the coin toss with the South African skipper Gary Teichmann. It all came gloriously together.
He was on the staff taken by Sir Clive Woodward to the 2005 tour to New Zealand, and after the battering Woodward’s men took, the Lions turned to McGeechan once again to rekindle the Lions spirit in 2009.
He produced another slick, entertaining Lions side that came heartbreakingly close to pulling off a series win, eventually losing 2-1 in a series they should have pocketed.