SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Jamie Ritchie have added their tributes to Doddie Weir, who died yesterday aged 52 after a long fight against motor neurone disease.
In a statement released by Scottish Rugby this morning, Townsend, a former team-mate of Weir’s in the national side, said it was a time for sorrow and for celebration.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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 team-mates 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.
“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.
“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 was still a young boy when Weir ended a career which saw him win 61 caps for Scotland, but he explained that the former lock forward had been a big influence on him and on his colleagues in the current national team.
“Yesterday’s news was tough to take for so many people, which proves how much of an inspiration Doddie Weir was,” he said.
“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 team-mate, 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.
“The ovation he received was extremely fitting and demonstrated how much he was loved by ournation 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.”