Scotland’s players want to make what mark they can to honour Doddie Weir when they play in the contest named after him in Cardiff this weekend – even if there’s no contribution for the millions of profits going to the Scotland hero’s foundation, says assistant coach Mike Blair.
Weir, who is tirelessly raising funds for research in Motor Neurone disease having been diagnosed with the presently incurable condition, has loaned his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and his name to the game but other than “raising awareness” and fan collections at the game no contribution from the WRU and SRU’s profits running towards £4 million will be made.
Blair didn’t criticise that decision, but said the team could best mark their support of Doddie by winning the game.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of it, I am not part of the financial team,” he said.
“From the coaches’ and players’ side of things the best thing we can do is go out and put in a performance, win the trophy and have that attached to our victory.
“I bump into Doddie all over the place, and he is a real Scottish rugby great – I played against him a couple of times in his later career and I’ve heard all the stories, but he had an awe about him then as well.
“I am flabbergasted about the amount of stuff he has been able to do since his diagnosis and there is a real affiliation with the players too.
“It was about a year ago (prior to the test against New Zealand in 2017) that he came in and spoke with the squad, and it was a really emotional moment. Even the guys that don’t know him that well find there is an emotional connection.
“His name tied to the cup this week gives it that little something extra as well.”
Meanwhile this fourth Autumn Test and an extra week’s training could be crucial to the Scots as they build towards the Rugby World Cup next year, he said.
“It’s been a brilliant preparation period and we’ve used it really well,” he said. “There’s a a good base from the summer, but this extended period allows a few different things.
“Normally you might not change too much but there’s a just a wee window there to look at things in a little more depth. This is the building blocks, because you don’t want to be doing masses of new stuff (prior to the 6 Nations) because it’s such a limited window.”
The experience of February’s awful performance in Cardiff against Wales is one that has been addressed, and Blair believes that those who struggled that day – like scrum-half Ali Price – will be better for it.
“A coach can say things but a big part of it is your own experience. Players like Ali learned a lot from that himself, he’ll know different things he’ll do and different situations.
“Yes, it was only in February, but a lot has happened since then. Ali for example particular has come back in real form over the last two months or so.
“There will be things we’ll talk about and might change or question a little but I think a lot of it is experiences of guys who’ve been out in that environment and know what it’s like, and they’ll be able to learn off the players around them as well.”
Scotland added two players to the main squad yesterday due to injury. Sam Johnson, called up for the first time since he completed residency, suffered a knee injury playing for Glasgow against Munster, while Matt Scott has been ruled out of Saturday’s game due to concussion protocols.
James Lang, the Harlequins stand-off/centre capped during the summer, has been recalled to the squad while Edinburgh’s young wing Darcy Graham has been upgraded to “training with the squad” to being a full part of it.
Three back row forwards – Magnus Bradbury (shoulder), Luke Crosbie (jaw) and David Denton (head) – have been returned to the care of their clubs.
As the game is not within World Rugby’s designated “international window” the exiled players in the squad – Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Lang, Denton and Blade Thomson – are no elgible to play this weekend although all are with the squad at camp at Oriam just outside Edinburgh for the first part of the week.