PREMIER SPORTS, who are going to broadcast all 152 Guinness PRO14 matches live across the UK this season, unveiled their team of Scottish ‘talent’ to spearhead the coverage north of the border yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon.
Former Scotland internationalists Doddie Weir, Jim Hamilton, Al Kellock, Chris Paterson and Rory Lawson have been charged with providing expert insight and analysis. Former Deacon Blue drummer and experienced BBC presenter Dougie Vipond, along with Emma Dodds, formerly of BT Sport, have been given presenting roles; while Rory Hamilton has been handed the commentator’s microphone.
The line-up in Scotland completes the 19-strong roster for Premier Sports TV ‘talent’ this season. Andrew Trimble, Mark Robson and Graham Little will take care of Northern Ireland; while Shane Williams, Sam Warburton, Martyn Williams, Eddie Butler, Ross Harries, Sean Holley, Wyn Gruffydd and Lauren Jenkins make up the team in Wales.
Weir, who is fighting a brave battle against motor neurone disease [MND], welcomed his surprise appointment as a guest pundit with Premier Sports as an opportunity to keep active and motivated whilst talking about the sport which has given him so much joy over the years.
“It came out of the blue. ‘Weir’ is not far up in the alphabet, so they must have tried a few more before me, but whether they have come to the bottom of the alphabet or not I am just delighted to be involved,” he quipped.“With the issue that is going on, it gives me another reason to get up and get on.
The 48-year-old confirmed that his famous tartan suits will be part of his matchday offering as well his customary cheeky charm, but the former Scotland and Lions lock added that he is also intent on bringing a detachment to his analysis that his younger colleagues – who played alongside a lot of the players they will be talking about – cannot offer.
“I will try to bring a bit of hilarity which is maybe what I have been brought in from day one to do, and I might say things that should not be said” he mused. “I have no employment status anyway!
“I also might see things from a different angle because Al Kellock and the rest of the boys have grown up in a different rugby era to Doddie Weir. Jim Telfer was one of my main teachers, and he looked at a video in a different way. Sometimes positive thinking is not the way forward, sometimes you have to say things that are not so compatible.
“The game is a similar one to the one I was involved in, same as the rest of the boys. Maybe there will be a couple of areas I will want to freshen up on but the scrum, the line-out, winning possession and scoring points is the same kettle of fish.
“They [the other pundits] see the game very well but it is maybe the off-the-ball incidents and so on that they don’t see in today’s environment that I can pick up on.
Weir was in fine fettle. He has been working tirelessly with the charity he has set up to raise both funding and awareness for issues related to MND and believes that this new appointment will help him remain motivated and positive.
“This is also a personal thing for me to be able to go to the games,” he explained. “I could have turned around and said no because of the issue I have, but as soon as I was invited it was a yes, just to be able to come and talk about something I’ve been passionate about as a player for 15 to 20 years. It might work, and it might not.
“It’s not for the full season as I might run out of steam. It’s five or six games through the year, which will fit in with what I’m doing,” he added, as he turned his attention to his charity work.
“The rugby public’s support and generosity has been overwhelming and often quite tear-jerking,” he explained. “Since the loss of [former South African scrum-half] Joost van der Westhuizen, MND is more to the fore than it has ever been, so the awareness is there.
“We [his foundation] recently announced that we’ve given £400,000 to King’s College in London for gene therapy research, £100,000 to Scotland MND for a care package and we’re talking to Edinburgh University about spending much money with them. That wouldn’t be possible without the support and fundraising that everyone is doing.
“It’s overwhelming what people are doing, from kids sending their pocket money to somebody just sending a letter. That is going to continue.
“The thing about this which has been hard and frustrating is that from day one I’ve never been given any cure,” he continued. “There is one drug available that came out 22 years ago, and that’s it. It’s like going into the doctor with a chest infection and being sent back out to find your own cure. That’s exactly what’s happening with myself and MND.
“I see a chiropractor once a week. It’s hard to tell how much that is working, but I feel it has helped. Being busy and social is certainly a big part as well because it takes your mind away.
“I’m fortunate to be in that situation. A lot of other people with MND might not have the same friend base or family support, which means they could be stuck inside a house, not seeing what is going on and just thinking about MND all the time. That maybe is detrimental to their care. That’s why the Foundation’s focus is on giving people a chance and options.
“I’m quite lucky at the moment. It just affects my hands, so the team will probably have to get me a headset to use rather than a hand-held microphone, but if that’s my only issue in 19 months then I’ve been very fortunate compared to some other people.”
THE PREMIER SPORT PRO14 TEAM FOR SCOTLAND
Dougie Vipond has been the host of BBC Scotland’s rugby output on TV and Radio for over a decade, presenting Rugby Sportscene Pro 14, Melrose 7s and Rugby Sportsound. He’s also regularly presented BBC Network’s coverage of Scotland’s Autumn Internationals. Dougie’s love of rugby is matched only by his love of the great outdoors and he is the main presenter of BBC Scotland’s award winning rural affairs series, Landward. He also fronts a monthly alternative sports programme, The Adventure Show, for the same channel. Prior to his broadcasting career, Dougie was a founding member and drummer with the band, Deacon Blue, with whom he continues to record and tour.
Doddie Weir made 61 international appearances at lock for his country. His first appearance for Scotland was on 10th August 1990 against Argentina at Murrayfield and he was a mainstay of the international team throughout the 1990s. He was part of the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 1997. Born in Edinburgh and educated at Melville College, Doddie enjoyed much of his rugby career playing for Melrose RFC in the Borders and was part of the team that won six Scottish club championships. He moved to England in 1995 to join Newcastle Falcons and was part of the Premiership winning side of 1997-98. In June 2017, Doddie announced he was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease aged 46, and has since set-up a high profile foundation found at www.myname5doddie.co.uk to help raise funds for research into a cure for MND and to provide grants to people living with the condition.
Rory Lawson was first capped against Australia in 2006 and went on to win 31 Caps for his country including two World Cups in 2007 and 2011. His 11-year club career included three seasons at Edinburgh rugby and seven years at Gloucester. His career was cut short due to a wrist injury in 2013 whilst playing at Newcastle Falcons. Since retiring Lawson has transitioned into life after sport combining entrepreneurialism with media by launching health drink brand CocoPro and commentating, while is TV and radio work has included punditry and co-commentary for a range of broadcasters including Sky Sports, BBC 5Live, BeIn Sport and World Rugby. His passion for the game and insight into media was first fuelled by his grandfather Bill McLaren.
Jim Hamilton retired from playing before the start of last season. He played at the highest levels for over 15 seasons in all three of Europe’s top competitions including Guinness PRO12 with Edinburgh, the English Premiership with Leicester Tigers, Gloucester and Saracens and in the Top 14 with Montpellier. He won two European cups, three Premiership trophies, two Anglo-Welsh Cups, achieved 63 caps for Scotland and played in two Rugby World Cups, with two games for the Barbarians. He is a columnist for The Sunday Times newspaper and works for Rugby Pass doing online content, and appears regularly on BT sport, BBC and ITV.
Al Kellock captained Glasgow Warriors for nine seasons. During his playing career he was one of the most consistent second rows in the GUINNESS PRO12, allowing him to impress on the international stage, being capped 56 times for Scotland and captaining his country. He announced his reteirmen from playing rugby at the end of the 2014–15 season after winning the GUINNESS PRO12, being appointed Scottish Rugby Ambassador/Commercial Operations Manager.
Chris Paterson is both Scotland (809) and Edinburgh’s (783) record points scorer of all time. The first Scotsman to reach a century of caps (he ended up with 109), he is also the only Scottish player to play in four Rugby World Cups. His professional career spanned 14 seasons representing Edinburgh and Gloucester, having come through the ranks with his hometown club of Gala in the Scottish Borders. Since retiring from the game in 2012 he has worked as a specialist skills coach and Ambassador for Scottish Rugby. Since 2012 he has been co-commentator and analyst on the BBC’s Six Nations and Autumn Test coverage, BT Sport’s Champions Cup and the 2015 Rugby World Cup amongst other assignments. He was awarded the MBE from the Queen in 2012 for services to Scottish Rugby.
Rory Hamilton‘s early roles in broadcasting were in production working on Scottish football and the Magners League, moving into commentary in 2009 with his debut match on the mic watching Edinburgh against Connacht and then covering rugby for STV and Radio Scotland as well as 7s rugby for Sky Sports. He then moved to football working on live games with Sky Sports and last year with BT Sport covering SPFL, Betfred Cup, Europa League and Champions League.
Emma Dodds is an established sports presenter and reporter who has worked for an array of broadcasters. She is currently seen on BT Sport’s football coverage and formerly worked for BSkyB, Warner Bros and The Arab Media Group. She has worked on many flagship sporting events such as the Champions League, 2015 Rugby World Cup, 2016 Summer and 2018 Winter Olympics, plus annual European Tour golf events. A regular on the World Rugby Sevens Series too, particularly in Dubai where she has hosted the flagship Match Live show in recent years.
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