Edinburgh coach Mike Blair opens up on his emotions after death of Doddie Weir

Mike Blair’s frustration with his team’s lacklustre performance against 14-man Benetton on Saturday afternoon was soon put intro perspective when it was announced a few hours later that Doddie Weir had died following a brave five-and-a-half battle against motor neurone disease
Mike Blair during an Edinburgh rugby training session at the DAM Health Stadium.Mike Blair during an Edinburgh rugby training session at the DAM Health Stadium.
Mike Blair during an Edinburgh rugby training session at the DAM Health Stadium.

The Edinburgh head coach – who played 85 Test matches for Scotland between 2002 and 2012 – does not tend to spend too much time looking backwards, but Weir’s passing has caused him to pause and reflect on his own rugby journey.

“I don’t miss playing for Scotland or miss playing rugby a huge amount, but there have been a couple of times over the last few years when I have had a quiet moment and taken it all in,” revealed the former scrum-half, whose international career started two years after Weir’s came to an end. “One of those moments was when I was an assistant coach with Scotland and Doddie delivered the match ball before the New Zealand game in 2017, and another was when he appeared on the pitch before the All Blacks game a couple of weeks ago. It is no coincidence that both those incidents involved Doddie and they made me reflect on how fortunate I am to have had the experiences I have had – and I did feel very emotional.”

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Blair added that he hopes Weir’s family can draw comfort from the extraordinary public response there has been to the loss of a bona fide national hero. “Reading all the comments about him must be really special,” he continued. “It has made me think about Tom Smith as well – who played for Scotland and the Lions alongside Doddie and died earlier this year. The regard they were held with both on and off the pitch really is phenomenal. It is a sad moment for Scottish rugby but to look back at it and what they achieved is uplifting.”

The world keeps turning and with Edinburgh back in action against Munster on Friday night, Blair and his team have had to quickly turn their attention back towards the task of producing a much-improved performance following last weekend’s debacle in Treviso, with the focus of yesterday’s de-brief of the Benetton game being work-rate. “We showed the players a clip of 55 minutes when the opposition had just received a yellow-card meaning they were down to 13 men and we didn’t work hard enough,” explained Blair. “Then we showed a clip at 76 minutes where we looked like we had huge amounts of energy, were working really hard off the ball, and had real desperation. So, we need that desperation in our game the whole time. We’ve got it in us, but we need to have it more consistently.

The capital side will be boosted by the return of its international contingent – 10 of whom were rested last weekend – for this Friday’s challenge “There is a bit of trying to work out the best way to utilise the guys coming back,” added Blair. “Do they come back on the bench, or do they start and get in the groove straight away? I expect them to be up to speed quickly because they’ve all been doing bits and bobs in their time off. It’s not as if they’ve been sitting idle the whole time. I expect them to come in and hit the ground running.”