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People will talk about him forever – Grant Gilchrist hails Doddie Weir

Doddie Weir was at the recent Scotland versus New Zealand match (Jane Barlow/PA)
Doddie Weir was at the recent Scotland versus New Zealand match (Jane Barlow/PA)

Grant Gilchrist believes memories of Doddie Weir can inspire Scotland for years to come.

The 52-year-old former international lock lost his battle with motor neurone disease last weekend, just two weeks after making an emotional appearance at BT Murrayfield before Gregor Townsend’s team faced New Zealand.

Gilchrist and the rest of his Scotland colleagues, as well as the All Blacks players, all made their way across to the side of the pitch to applaud Weir, who campaigned ever since his diagnosis almost six years ago to raise funds to aid the search for an MND cure.

“We know how brutal the disease is and we knew it was sadly inevitable but it still hits hard having seen him just a couple of weeks ago,” Scotland and Edinburgh lock Gilchrist told the PA news agency.

A Doddie Weir tribute
Doddie Weir died last weekend (David Davies/PA)

“What a legacy he’s left with the stuff he’s done on and off the field. People will talk about him forever. The work he’s done with his charity and the courage he’s shown over the last six years is incredible.

“I think we’ve got to use Doddie’s memory and legacy going forward on the pitch. We spoke ahead of the New Zealand game about doing Doddie and his family proud, and that shouldn’t just be a one-off game against New Zealand.

“It’s a massive year for the national team and what he’s done, we could never repay. But if we fight and play with the spirit he would want us to have, we can make sure we do him proud and also keep pushing the charity work that he’s started because that’s important as well.

“We want to find a cure for this horrible disease, and that doesn’t stop now – it keeps going forever.”

Gilchrist – whose club Edinburgh have urged supporters to wear tartan to Friday’s match against Munster as a tribute to Weir – felt privileged to have met his fellow lock on several occasions.

“Every time you got a chance to meet Doddie, you always had a smile on your face,” said the 32-year-old.

“I was lucky enough to meet him numerous times through the years and he was always smiling and up for a laugh.

“We live in a serious world and professional sport is a serious business but it’s important to get a balance, and characters like Doddie make such a difference.

“On the field, he was a wonderful rugby player. Those runs in the loose, I can see images of him running through the middle of the pitch when I was a youngster growing up.

“He’s a legend of the sport but what he’s done for MND and the bravery and courage he’s shown in the last six years is probably what people will focus on because that’s really special.

Grant Gilchrist
Grant Gilchrist, pictured, has paid tribute to Weir (Robert Perry/PA)

“It takes such a special character to go through what he did and be completely selfless about it. What he and his family went through must have been absolutely horrific but all he cared about was making a difference, and he’s done that.”

Two of the most poignant moments of Gilchrist’s career came when Weir appeared before matches against the All Blacks – firstly in 2017, shortly after he announced his diagnosis, and then a fortnight before his death.

“It was really emotional both times when he came out before the All Blacks games,” said Gilchrist.

“I had a tear in my eye the first time in 2017. I was on the bench that day. I remember tears running down my face as I went to sit back down on the bench, just thinking ‘wow, that was a special moment’. Two weeks ago was the same.

“The best atmosphere I’ve ever felt in rugby was probably those two moments. It was weird trying to channel all that emotion into your performance.”