Warren Gatland the man to bring All Blacks to their knees, says former British & Irish Lion ‘Big Doddie’ Weir
In Hong Kong for a charity dinner, ex-Scotland lock reflects on his career and current state of the game
Former Scotland international Doddie Weir is confident Warren Gatland is the man to lead the British & Irish Lions to their first win over the All Blacks since 1971 when they tour New Zealand next year.
In Hong Kong to speak at an Indochina Starfish Foundation charity dinner, the towering lock, who famously got injured before playing a test on his only Lions tour in 1997 in South Africa, is excited about what Gatland brings to the side.
“Certainly Gatland is the number one and I’m delighted he is doing it,” Weir said.
“He has to be number one because the rest of the coaches that are involved at national level haven’t been as consistent as he has. He’s been there, he knows it and he is certainly the one to lead the party.”
That being said, Weir knows that travelling to New Zealand and becoming only the second ever Lions side to knock off the All Blacks will require meticulous planning and everything to go right.
“I think there is one party that has done it so it just shows you how hard it is,” the 46-year-old said.
“The biggest problem for international coaches, especially Lions coaches, is to get all of these nations in to the one room and try and get them thinking along the same lines. There is no one greater at doing that than Gatland.”
Reflecting on a long and storied career, a relaxed ‘Big Doddie’ can’t help but think just how lucky he is to have been involved in the game of rugby, a game that to this day he is still benefiting from.
“I lived the dream from day one and even getting invited here is still part of living that little dream,” he said.
“Travelling the world and meeting a lot of good people and here we are in Hong Kong still part of the game of rugby and still having a good time.”
Through 61 tests and three World Cups for Scotland,the Lions tour and numerous successes with club sides Melrose in Scotland and the Newcastle Falcons in England, Wier says there is no out and out highlight.
But one memory in particular springs to mind – a trip to the home of Santa Clause for British TV programme A Question of Sport.
“They would have a mystery personality on and I very kindly got invited to Lapland, Santa Clause’s homeland, to do a filming for that,” Weir said.
“Without rugby, I certainly wouldn’t have been there.”
Weir is no stranger to Hong Kong and was planning to seek out Joe Bananas while here after becoming acquainted with the iconic Wan Chai venue during the Hong Kong Sevens.
“Scotland were on a sevens tour and got a couple of injuries, so they flew me out,” he said.
“I was one of the 12 but didn’t make the 10. It was good fun because it meant I was able to enjoy the delights that Hong Kong has.”
Like so many it seems in world rugby, Weir is also connected to Hong Kong’s Pot Bellied Pigs, having pulled on the Pigs colourful strip while at the Fatboy 10s in the Philippines as a guest speaker in 2008 and again in 2012.
When he is not travelling the world for speaking engagements, Weir is enjoying life in the slow lane on his 300-acre property in the Scottish Borders south of Edinburgh with his wife Kathy and three boys Hamish, Angus and Ben.
His day job is “supplying, designing, maintaining and installing sewerage equipment”, while he also farms some sheep and cattle and Kathy trains the odd racehorse.
“It’s a good excuse to buy some toys, even though we probably don’t need them,” Weir says.
While Weir is forever grateful for what rugby has given him, he says he “wouldn’t like to be involved in it now” as a player, although he admits overall the game is in great shape.
“I’m not really pleased with the changes,” he said.
“When we were involved rucking was quite an important part and there was a bit of physical contact at times and that has been taken away.”
While the game has become far more professional since his playing days, Weir, who last played for Scotland in 2000, is not sure it is all for the good.
“It’s over-analysed at the moment I think,” he said.
“There is too much emphasis on the strength and speed, it should be more on the skill level and the understanding of the game. You get the GPS system on your shirts nowadays, what’s that about? Players get selected on the back of running 10,000 metres. The spontaneity of the players is just not there.”
And whatever you do, do not mention England coach Eddie Jones.
“He has come in to the team and done extremely well,” Weir said.
“He has brought a bit of composure and a bit of experience. It is a bit of a worry that he has brought this in, because being a Scotsman we always like to play against the old enemy and he has now taken it to a different level.”