Doddie Weir, former international for Scotland and the Lions, was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease four years ago. In this time, he has campaigned as ferociously as he once played, and in doing so has ignited the rugby community in the fight against MND.
From the first of January, until the Calcutta Cup in 12 days, folks from all over Scotland and beyond have participated in DoddieAid: an inter-district challenge to complete as many miles and raise as much money as possible. So far, over £700k has been raised for MND research.
My rugby team in Dundee are participating (obviously for the winning district!) and all of us have found personal benefits to the challenge as well as the obvious feel-good factor in donating to charity. I think it’s safe to say all of us were struggling to get outside enough in yet another lockdown, and it’s been a godsend for making us rack up the miles. It forces us out for a walk, run, or cycle, and I for one invariably feel far less grumpy at the end of this than the beginning. The team dynamic of encouraging one another on also means the world at a time when we can’t train or play together.
The Dundee Valkyries are among star-studded company in doing the challenge: while we are opposing Gerard Butler, we do have Ewen McGregor on the North and Midlands team (incidentally, while I enjoy a lot of McGregor’s roles, I may be the only person who thinks of him as yer man from Moulin Rouge, rather than Obi Wan Kenobi).
Excitingly, there has recently been a breakthrough in MND research, but the task of finding a cure is not over yet. If you want to help out, you can sign up for DoddieAid (and get a tartan snood!), or donate here.
In honour of just 12 days until the Calcutta Cup, I’ll leave you with highlights of perhaps my favourite rugby match I’ve ever seen, and some links to other things you might enjoy.
‘maybe this year will be better than the last:’ for fortnightly bursts of joy, subscribe to my friend Lauren Thurman’s TinyLetter here.
Have a look at my rugby team’s upcoming Discovery Challenge, in which we’ll walk/run/cycle/row/cartwheel roughly 200 miles each to raise money for the club and Togs for Tots.
If you missed my last post, In Defence of Mediocrity, go and rejoice in my entirely flat banana bread (and perhaps some deeper thoughts).
In case you haven’t seen the latest women’s rugby controversy, let me catch you up. Canterbury and Ireland released the men’s and women’s strips: the male models were Conor Murray, Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw; the female models were… models. Beautiful women, yes, but the implication (sometimes outright stated) was that female rugby players are not beautiful enough, strong enough, inspirational enough.
The message from female rugby players has been strong and conclusive: we are enough, and we have had enough.
Lots of women’s rugby players are incredibly beautiful, in many different ways. But do you know what? Some of us don’t fit standards of beauty, and that shouldn’t matter either. A cauliflower ear, broken nose, or some lumps and bumps would never stop men modelling the kit that’s made for them, and it should never stop women either.
In only a few days, the movement has inspired a big change: Canterbury has committed to using rugby players for all their female kit launches from now on. In these dark times, small progress should be celebrated.
There are so many female rugby players I look up to, regardless of how good looking they are. My friends, my idols, women who dedicate their lives to rugby and might never see a penny from it, no matter how high a level they attain. If you feel like being inspired, too, here are five wonderful women who are every bit as impressive as Stuart Hogg.
Florence Williams. This is the lady that started the movement, so naturally she had to be on my list. She plays for Wasps, and is the founder of Perception Agency, which aims to change the way we see women’s sports.
Rhona Lloyd. The Scotland winger seems to get bigger biceps and even more badass every time she posts on Instagram. A great example of a beautiful woman whose talent and heart are far more important than the way she looks. Check out her ‘Women Who Sport’ podcast.
Jade Konkel. You should have heard of Jade, Scotland’s first female full-time rugby player. Her Instagram is packed with training pictures and inspirational quotes, and if you’re a soppy romantic like me, you’ll love her engagement story.
Heather Fisher. An England and GB7s player (a World Cup winner and an Olympian!) who has been vocal about her past struggles with anorexia, and her ongoing alopecia. Her values are ‘work hard, be brave, believe in yourself,’ which I think we can agree are the words of a role model.
Panashe Muzambe. Panashe is still young, only 24, and is in the early stages of her career. However, being the first Black woman to play for Scotland is already incredible, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come. She has a podcast which talks about ‘life experiences, black/minority culture, relationships, TV, music and so much more.’
Two teams posts about the #IAmEnough movement also caught my eye. Saracens are using their big name to show other teams how kit launches should be done, and have a look at Hamilton Ladies for a local team who always have something to say for women.
Let me know which women inspire you, and always remember: women are enough, we’ve had enough, and we will come for you.
I enjoyed this game a lot more than last week’s, despite the rather more boring scoreline, It was by no means a classic, but Glasgow’s two tries (and two almost-tries) had my heart racing, and the team seemed far more comfortable on the pitch. This could be down to Glasgow’s largely similar team choice.
Edinburgh, however, had a vastly different starting XV. While this didn’t work on the day, it could pay off when they have a wider choice of match-fit players for their semi-finals, but could also be a confidence crusher against Munster: Edinburgh didn’t look like a team that would be winning anything. If they want a chance against Munster, they’ll have to bring their energy from the last 20 minutes of last Saturday’s game.
It was exciting to have a very tiny crowd back watching live, but let’s be honest: the only name on everyone’s lips is Fraser Brown. On his 100th appearance for Glasgow, he captained them, scored a try, and got Man of the Match. From about 15 minutes in I was sure he was destined for this accolade: his try gave Glasgow the momentum to maintain a lead, and the way he put his body on the line in attack was majestic, a word rarely used to describe front rows. Stuart McInally might be very nervous for Scotland selection after Brown’s outing this weekend.
Huw Jones had another decent game at fullback, if we ignore his desperate seatbelt tackle. While he was in the sin bin, I kept waiting for Edinburgh to score, but they only came out of the ten minute advantage with three points. Glasgow will have taken confidence from not conceding anything worse than a penalty.
It was just a game of pride, but that’s something Glasgow definitely regained on Friday night. They successfully maintained their lead and were determined to get the win that they came out with. After a false start last week, a good end to the season for Glasgow. Hopefully as the next season progresses, we can aim for something like normality: live rugby, I miss you.
Last Week: Glasgow 15-30 Edinburgh
Last Saturday’s game was one of sloppy handling, poor discipline, and halfhearted fisticuffs. There was some exciting rugby from Glasgow in the first half, but that dwindled later on to give Edinburgh the well-deserved win.
Despite this being the Warriors’ “home” game, BT Murrayfield is not their friend: their last win in Edinburgh was way back in 2016 and although they had shining moments, Saturday never really seemed like it was going to be the day for a win in the capital.
Huw Jones was a surprising bright spark after his rogue choice at fullback, although of course not as remarkable as Stuart Hogg might have been. Pete Horne looked decent at centre too, and Ratu Tagive had a fairly good game on the wing.
I was also happy to see Richie Gray back in Warriors’ colours – particularly as charge-downs are one of my favourite rugby moments – but I missed his brother’s tackling. Hopefully at Exeter Jonny will finesse his attacking (which would surely make him a top pick for the Lions. But I digress…).
The Teams: I’ve put last week’s choices in brackets for both teams.
1. Oli Kebble 2. Fraser Brown (C) 3. Zander Fagerson 4. Rob Harley (Richie Gray) 5. Scott Cummings 6. Ryan Wilson (Rob Harley) 7. Tom Gordon (Matt Fagerson) 8. Matt Fagerson (Ryan Wilson)
9. George Horne (Ali Price) 10. Adam Hastings 11. Ratu Tagive 12. Stafford McDowall (Pete Horne) 13. Nick Grigg 14. Tommy Seymour 15. Huw Jones
16. George Turner 17. Charlie Capps (Dylan Evans) 18. Enrique Pieretto (D’arcy Rae) 19. Rob Harley (Kiran McDonald) 20. Chris Fusaro (Tom Gordon) 21. Ali Price (George Horne) 22. Pete Horne (Niko Matawalu) 23. Robbie Nairn (Glenn Bryce)
1. Pierre Shoeman (Rory Sutherland) 2. Mike Willemse (Stuart McInally, C) 3. Simon Berghan (WP Nel) 4. Nick Haining (Andrew Davidson) 5. Jamie Hodgson (Grant Gilchrist) 6. Magnus Bradbury (Luke Crosbie) 7. Hamish Watson 8. Viliame Mata
9. Charlie Shiel (Nic Groom) 10. Nathan Chamberlain (Jaco van der Walt) 11. Duhan van der Merwe 12. Chris Dean (C) 13. James Johnstone (Mark Bennet) 14. Darcy Graham (Eroni Sau) 15. Blair Kinghorn
16. Stuart McInally (Mike Willemse) 17. Rory Sutherland (Pierre Schoeman) 18. WP Nel (Simon Berghan) 19. Marshall Sykes (Jamie Hodgson) 20. Luke Crosbie (Nick Haining) 21. Roon Frostwick (Charlie Shiel) 22. Jaco van der Walt (Nathan Chamberlain) 23. Matt Gordon