Scotland rugby legend Doddie Weir dies aged 52

Weir's family say they will cherish his warmth and wit. Credit: PA

Former Scotland rugby international Doddie Weir has died aged 52 after living with motor neurone disease.

Weir earned 61 caps for Scotland, represented the British and Irish Lions on their tour to South Africa in 1997, and won championships with club sides Melrose and Newcastle Falcons.

In June 2017 he was diagnosed with MND and went on to establish the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation, to support better research into the disease.

His family confirmed his death on 26 November 2022 in a statement released by Scottish Rugby.

Weir training ahead of a 1999 rugby union world cup clash with Tonga. Credit: PA

"It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie," read the statement.

"Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive, and his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.

"Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together: he was a true family man. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.

"MND took so much from Doddie, but never his spirit and determination."

"He battled MND so bravely, and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation, until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.

"Hamish, Angus, Ben and I would like to thank everyone for your support and for respecting our privacy at this difficult time. Kathy Weir."

Tributes to Weir have poured from many corners of the rugby world.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac began his post-match press conference following a 39-34 Autumn Nations Series defeat against Australia in Cardiff by offering his condolences.

"On behalf of the Welsh rugby public and the Welsh national team, we would like to send our condolences to Doddie's family," Pivac said.

"A terrific man, I was fortunate enough to meet him after a Scotland-Wales game.

"He has done a lot for the game, and our condolences go out to his family and friends.

“Our thoughts are with all those who loved him. He will be hugely missed across the entire rugby world.”

Members of the royal family also lauded Weir's achievements. In a personally signed tweet, William and Kate wrote: “Doddie Weir was a hero – 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, who is a patron of the MND Scotland charity, called Weir "truly larger than life, determined, generous and humble".

"He transformed people's understanding of MND and funding for research," she added.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said his family's thoughts are with Weir's wife and sons, while Nicola Sturgeon praised him as one of Scotland's "sporting legends".

"But the brave way he responded to MND surpassed anything ever achieved on the rugby pitch," she added.

The My Name'5 Doddie foundation tweeted: "Doddie was a force of nature, a great family man, tremendous rugby player & loved & respected by all who knew him."

Educated at Stewart's Melville College in Edinburgh, the 6'6" lock started his playing career with the Inverleith outfit's first XV before moving to Melrose in 1991, where he won a hat-trick of Scottish Championships.

But it was with Scotland that Weir really made his name. He won his first cap against Argentina in 1990 and became a second-row fulcrum throughout the 1990s.

He helped his country to the 1999 Five Nations Championship - Scotland's last major tournament success.

Weir was a line out specialist, as on show here against Spain in a World Cup match at the Murrayfield stadium in 1999. Credit: PA

He was also part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in 1997, but his trip was cut short before he could get to grips with the Springboks.

In a midweek clash with provincial side Mpumalanga, he was the victim of a brutal karate kick later described by the tourists' furious head coach Ian McGeechan as a "cold-blooded act".

The knee injury he suffered killed off hopes of earning a Lions Test cap, but Weir later showed he could laugh about the incident.

Weir has fun maxing out the scales after meeting Princess Anne at Musselburgh Racecourse in 2000. Credit: PA

He purchased a hedgehog-shaped shoe-shine block which he named 'Marius' after Marius Bosman, his South African assailant, and kept it outside the family home. He would never pass without giving it a kick.

The advent of professionalism offered Weir - a farmer by trade - the chance to finally make a living out of the game he loved.

He moved to Newcastle in 1995 and helped them to the 1998 Premiership title, before ending his playing days back in the Borders with the Reivers.

After hanging up his boots he returned to farming duties and also worked with a waste disposal firm, while punditry work and after-dinner speaking also kept him busy.

Weir wearing his famous 'Doddie'5 Tartan' suit, designed to raise money for the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation. Credit: PA

While his battle with MND gradually took its toll, campaigned to ensure those diagnosed with the disease after him would have a better chance of survival, setting up his 'My Name'5 Doddie' foundation.

The charity rose to even greater prominence when he linked up with those established by Rob Burrow and Stephen Darby, who have also been diagnosed with MND.

Only a fortnight before his death, Weir was present as Kevin Sinfield set off on seven ultra marathons in seven days, which raised over £2million for MND charities.

Doddie Wier saw Kevin Sinfield set off on his 'Ultra 7 in 7' challenge Credit: Leeds Rhinos

Resting up was never an option.

"If you don't use it, you lose it," Weir said. "When you sit down and let it get to you, you disappear. I've always had a positive outlook.

"Do what you can do today and worry about tomorrow when it comes. And if it doesn't come, then you've a bloody good time."