Captain Jamie Ritchie has told his Scotland team-mates to draw inspiration from the presence of Doddie Weir as they bid to conquer New Zealand for the first time in their history on Sunday.
Accompanied by his family, the 52-year-old former Scotland international is expected to be at BT Murrayfield for the showdown with the All Blacks, five years on from his appearance at the same fixture just months after he revealed his motor neurone disease diagnosis.
The Scots will wear their purple away kit with the numbers on the back in the colour of Weir’s famous blue and yellow tartan to mark the five-year anniversary of his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which has now committed almost £8 million to research projects across the UK.
“It will be a proud day to lead the boys out for such a big game, especially with Doddie being there,” said Ritchie. “Five years ago, he presented the ball the last time we played New Zealand.
“It was a hugely emotional moment. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house and it will be special to have him there tomorrow.
“Doddie’s so special to us all and the strength and the courage that he’s shown over the last five or six years since his diagnosis, just to keep fighting, is an inspiration to anyone, not just us as a playing group.
“I know he as a person is special to the group and I’d like to think that the group is special to him.
“I said to the boys out there during the team run, ‘if you need any other motivation than to do it for him, then I don’t know what to say’. It’ll be hugely inspirational for us.”
Ritchie has got to know Weir over the years since they first crossed paths when he was a teenager.
“My first-ever rugby dinner I went to at my old club, Madras, he was the speaker, that was the first time I met him properly,” recalls the 26-year-old. “He did his after-dinner speech and me and one of my pals had just played for Scotland Under-16s, that’s why we’d been invited to the dinner.
“Doddie got us up and gave us a ball with a little personal message on it and I’ve still got that. I’ve met him a few times over the last few years and he’s such a big character, a special, special man.”
Ritchie, who made his Scotland debut in 2018, was in the stand as a supporter the last time the All Blacks visited Edinburgh. He is relishing his first crack at the most iconic team in the game.
“I remember watching the Rugby Championship in the morning before going to school so it will be cool to run out against the All Blacks,” he said.
“I used to love watching Kieran Read and I remember when I was a little bit younger I had a Jonah Lomu video I used to watch. I had a TV next to my bed and once I’d been put to bed, I used to stay up at night and watch the video really quietly so my parents couldn’t hear.
“It would be the first time in our history that we’d beaten them in 15s, so we know it’s a challenge but we’re looking to get that monkey off the back. You saw them last week (against Wales), they’re still a very good side, but there are things that we’ve identified that we’ll look to exploit and we’ll be confident we can do that.
“Our intention is to go out and fire every bullet we’ve got, leave nothing to chance, leave nothing up to what ifs. We’re just going to be brave and take the game to them.”