Doddie Weir: Gregor Townsend says former team-mate's campaigning has already led to MND breakthroughs

Gregor Townsend and Jamie Ritchie have paid tribute to Doddie Weir, with the Scotland coach and captain describing him as an inspirational figure for the way he dealt with his motor neurone diagnosis and campaigned for research into the disease.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend with his former team-mate Doddie Weir, who has died at the age of 52.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend with his former team-mate Doddie Weir, who has died at the age of 52.

Townsend believes his former team-mate’s tireless work has already led to breakthroughs. Weir’s death at the age of 52 was announced on Saturday. He lived with MND for six years and in 2017 he set up the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to raise awareness of the disease, help find a cure and support those affected.

Townsend, who played alongside Weir for Scotland, the South and the Borders, said: “The news of Doddie’s passing is incredibly sad for his family and the whole of Scottish Rugby but it’s also a time to celebrate Doddie’s life and what he’s achieved, particularly over the last five years. His fight against MND and his fight to find a cure for the illness has been inspirational. I know it’s inspired so many people around the country to raise a lot of money for the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation which has in turn brought together his friends as well as rugby clubs and communities across Scotland and further afield.

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“Doddie will have a huge legacy as he’s made such progress in finding a cure for MND and breakthroughs are already being made because of his determination. He was fun to be around and was always joking with teammates and coaches. He kept that spirit going once he’d retired, becoming a brilliant after dinner speaker on the back of being a brilliant rugby player.”

Townsend welcomed Weir to Murrayfield earlier this month for Scotland’s match against New Zealand and the former lock forward presented the match ball to Ritchie before the game. In what was a poignant moment, both teams gathered round Weir and joined the rest of the crowd in a spontaneous round of applause. “It’s a sad time for us all but it was great to see him receive the ovation and love that he earned a couple of weeks ago when he presented the match ball before our game against the All Blacks,” Townsend added. “It touched everyone in the stadium and those watching on TV. I know he means a lot to our players so on behalf of the Scotland team our love and thoughts go to Doddie’s family. We want to pay tribute to the big man who has made a huge difference and had a deep impact on the lives of so many over the last few years.”

Ritchie has championed Weir’s foundation since its inception and regularly wears its distinct yellow and blue colours while training with Scotland. He first met the 61-times capped Weir at a rugby dinner as a teenager and they kept in touch. The current Scotland captain said Weir’s work had an impact on the whole squad.

“Yesterday’s news was tough to take for so many people which proves how much of an inspiration Doddie Weir was,” said Ritchie “Doddie was so special to all of the Scotland players. The strength and courage he showed over the last five years to keep fighting in the face of such a terrible diagnosis was an inspiration to everyone, not just the playing group. As well as his achievements on the pitch, his personality was so infectious and we would often hear stories about him off the field about how he was an incredible character and teammate, someone we all looked up to.

“I remember the first time I met him at Madras Rugby Club in what was my first ever rugby club dinner. I had just been called up to Scotland Under-16s and after his speech he invited me up on stage to give me a signed ball with a personal message on it. It’s something I’ve always treasured. As my career has progressed it’s been a privilege to get to know him more and to have the honour of receiving the match ball from him at the All Blacks match two weeks ago is a moment I will cherish forever.

Gregor Townsend with Doddie Weir in 2018. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

“The ovation he received was extremely fitting and demonstrated how much he was loved by our nation and how much he will be missed. Now more than ever it is important we continue the fight against MND and carry on his legacy. My love goes to Kathy,the boys and all of Doddie’s friends and family at this sad time. Rest easy big fella.”

Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie speaks to Doddie Weir ahead of the match against New Zealand at Murrayfield, on November 12. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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