Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has spoken of the “huge legacy” former team-mate Doddie Weir will have following his death after a battle with motor neurone disease.
The Scottish Rugby Union announced on Saturday that Weir, who was diagnosed with MND in December 2016, had died at the age of 52.
The former Scotland lock set up the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, a research charity aimed at finding a cure for the disease.
Townsend said in a statement from the SRU: “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.
“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.”
Townsend said the moment when 61-cap Weir, who he described a “brilliant rugby player”, presented the match ball when Scotland played New Zealand at Murrayfield earlier this month “touched everyone in the stadium”, and added: “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.”
Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie said: “Yesterday’s news was tough to take for so many people which proves how much of an inspiration Doddie Weir was.
“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.”
Scott Hastings, another former Scotland team-mate, told BBC’s Sunday Show Weir was “a magical human being”, and said: “He was like a magnet, he attracted people to him, people kind of followed him.
“He was extraordinary both on and off the rugby pitch. Obviously latterly his work within the MND community means he leaves a legacy which is just unrivalled in many respects.”
Weir was described in a personally signed tweet by the Prince and Princess of Wales as a “hero”, with the royals adding: “we are so sad to hear of his passing. His immense talent on the pitch as well as his tireless efforts to raise awareness of MND were an inspiration”.
The Princess Royal, the patron of MND Scotland, said: “He was truly larger than life, determined, generous and humble. He transformed people’s understanding of MND and funding for research.”
Nicola Sturgeon led the tributes from Scotland’s political sphere, describing the campaigner as “one of our nation’s sporting legends”, adding “the brave way he responded to MND surpassed anything ever achieved on the rugby pitch”.
On Saturday, fellow MND sufferer and campaigner Rob Burrow, the former Leeds Rhinos player, tweeted: “So sad to hear the news of the passing of my mnd hero Doddie Weir.
“I’m sorry to say, how many more warriors die before this stupid government give the 50m they said they would give.”
In November 2021, the government committed at least £50 million to help find new therapies, and eventually a cure, for MND, a condition in which the brain and nerves progressively degenerate.
Earlier this month, Weir met with Burrow’s former team-mate Kevin Sinfield at the start of his ‘Ultra 7 in 7’ challenge, when he ran seven ‘ultra marathons’ in as many days for MND-related causes.
And Sinfield said on Twitter: “Doddie was a giant as a player, but his campaigning following his MND diagnosis made him a colossus. I am honoured to have been able to call Doddie my friend.”
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said of Weir: “His strength of character was unwavering, inspiring and moving. Quite simply, he was a remarkable man.”