SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend and national captain Jamie Ritchie today [Sun] added their tributes to Doddie Weir, who died yesterday [Sat] at the age of 52. 

Capped 61 times by Scotland, Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017, and responded by setting up his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. It has now raised around £8million to fund research into the illness.

Townsend, 49, won his first Scotland cap in 1993, three years after Weir made his national debut. At first club rivals at Gala and Melrose respectively, the two were team-mates in the national team for much of the rest of the decade. In a statement released by Scottish Rugby, Townsend described his old friend’s passing as a time for sorrow but also 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.”

Shortly after learning he had MND, Weir, accompanied by his wife Kathy and their three sons, presented the match ball at BT Murrayfield before Scotland’s game against New Zealand. He was greeted with rapturous applause by the capacity crowd in what was one of Townsend’s first games as national coach.

The Herald: Jamie Ritchie with Doddie WeirJamie Ritchie with Doddie Weir (Image: SNS)

Then, just a fortnight ago and by that time in a wheelchair, Weir got the same reception at the national stadium as, again with his wife and sons, he presented the match ball before the Autumn Nations Series match between Scotland and the All Blacks. It was the first time since that 2017 game that the two teams had met.

"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, who was appointed Scotland captain by Townsend just last month, spoke to Weir on the pitch before that match against New Zealand. Now 26, he was only a young boy when the second-row forward retired, but he explained that Weir had been a big influence on him from his early years as a promising teenage player.

"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."