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British & Irish Lions

Murray vows to make the most of Lions captaincy experience

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Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Ireland scrum-half was chosen by Warren Gatland to take over the role from Alun Wyn Jones after the Wales and Lions legend was ruled out of the Tour to South Africa.

Jones dislocated his shoulder in the opening minutes of the Lions’ 28-10 victory over Japan at BT Murrayfield, ending his hopes of a fourth consecutive Tour and his first as captain.

And having played alongside Jones on the last two Tours, Lion #790 Murray admitted he will have big shoes to fill as skipper after accepting what he described as an “unbelievable honour”.

“We’re very disappointed to lose Alun Wyn. He’s been brilliant for the first two weeks. I’ve known him from the past two Tours and he’s been incredible. It’s a huge loss,” said Murray.

“Warren asked me just before the cap ceremony and it was surreal. I still don’t have my head around it, but it’s something that is an unbelievable honour.

“It’s something that I never thought would be possible. What kind of puts me at ease is that we’ve such a good leadership group that it means I can continue being myself.

“There’ll be a little bit more responsibility, but I don’t think it should change anything around the camp. I think that’s one of the most important things – that I remain myself, and I assume that’s why Warren asked me to do it.”

Murray toured with the Lions in 2013 and 2017 while he also has 89 Ireland caps and when asked whether he hesitated about accepting, the 32-year-old’s answer was emphatic.

“I didn’t think about long,” he added. “I said, ‘absolutely, it’ll be it’ll be a massive honour thank you very much for this opportunity’. So, no. Then you kind of think about how big it is and then obviously my phone has gone a bit crazy since it was announced.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be on a couple of Tours already, so it’s something that I’ve said to myself that I’m going to enjoy and take every moment and really, really enjoy the experience. It’s something that I’m going to relish and enjoy rather than feeling daunted by it.

“I know a lot of the lads here already, it’s a group that you can feed off. When it was announced I got a big round of applause and the boys were congratulating me. It feels really close.”

Murray is set to become just the 13th Irishman to captain the Lions in Test action when the tourists take on the Springboks in their first series against the world champions since 2009.

He will follow in the illustrious footsteps of Irish rugby icons such as Tom Crean, Ronnie Dawson, Willie John McBride, Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony.

And the 32-year-old hopes his previous Tour experience will serve him well in the role, having seen first hand what it takes to bring together the four homes nations into one team.

“I think you got to definitely understand how we’re trying to play, what we’re trying to do on the pitch, that’s the most important thing,” said Murray on the task ahead of him.

“I think your messaging has to be well thought out, you know, I think, in my career I suppose when I do speak it’s thought out. You know, it might not be that often, but it’s definitely has meaning and there’s thought behind it, and a genuineness to it.

“When you’re a Lion, you realise who you’re playing for, what you’re trying to achieve as a player and who you want to make proud. That’s what I’ve learned from team talks in Lions changing rooms and Ireland changing rooms and Munster changing rooms.

“I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of leaders and they always bring it back to who you’re trying to make proud and what you’re actually here for. I think driving that message is important.”

And with the likes of England captain Owen Farrell and Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg also in the 37-man squad, Murray believes he will be more than ably supported in the role.

“It’s a huge honour, but there’s such a good group of leaders in this squad that it makes it less daunting, definitely. I think there’s lads that you can lean on,” he added.

“We’ve seen it even for the first two weeks, a few other players would start to lead or start by saying a few words before training, or whatever the message might be for the week.

“There’s massive experience there so you know it’ll definitely be a group thing. I’m going to enjoy it and again lean on those boys. It’ll take a bit of getting used to, but it’s such an honour.”

Source – British & Irish Lions

by Andy Baber

27 June 2021 09:58 Reading Time: 4 mins


British & Irish Lions

Tributes pour in for late Lions legend Doddie Weir

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #670 and MND campaigner Doddie Weir who has died aged 52.

Weir was called up to the 1997 Lions squad to South Africa and although his tour was cut short due to a nasty injury sustained against Mpumalanga Province, he still described it as one of the greatest experiences of his career.

The second row played 61 times for Scotland, scoring four tries, including two against New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, making him the only Scottish player in history to score twice against the All Blacks.

He was a club legend at both Newcastle Falcons and Border Reivers, starring in the Falcons side that won the Premiership title in 1998.

In 2017, Weir was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, and became one of the most vocal and prominent campaigners in the world – setting up his charity My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which has raised more than £5 million since being launched.

Tributes have poured in to honour a true legend of the game both on the pitch and off it, with fellow British & Irish Lion and legendary commentator Brian Moore calling Weir an “outstanding man”.

Weir’s impact on Scottish rugby cannot be overstated and another of the nation’s rugby legends and a former teammate of Weir’s Scott Hastings called him “the most lovable man in the world”.

He has been such an inspiration since his diagnosis, raising both significant funds and also the profile of MND and that has led to him becoming a true national hero, with Scottish footballing icon Sir Kenny Dalglish praising him for his fight against the disease.

The news came during England’s match with South Africa at Twickenham, and when the announcement was made, the whole crowd rose to their feet for a round of applause to show their respects.

Former England captain Dylan Hartley and South African World Cup winner Bryan Habana spoke of Weir’s legacy both in and out of the sport.

Habana said: “He embodied everything the game stands for in terms of respect, charisma, spirit in which the game is played and the humour with which he embraced fellow teammates.

“What he brought to the game of rugby, he was a phenomenal player and what he has done in the last decade with a disease that would have seen a lot of people die a lot earlier, and how much money he has raised.

“Even with the struggles, to be able to walk two or three kilometres, just to be able to show to the world, the character he has.

“To his family, his loved ones, the deepest respect for someone who really lit up this world and made it a better place.”

The tributes kept pouring in, from presenter Gabby Logan – who last year appeared on TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire to raise money for the foundation, to cycling great Sir Chris Hoy.

Outside the world of sport, author and Scotland fan JK Rowling paid her respects, as did the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Leeds Rhinos great and Leicester Tigers assistant coach Kevin Sinfield, who recently completed seven back-to-back ultra marathons, starting at BT Murrayfield where Weir presented the match ball for Scotland v New Zealand, released a statement.

He said: “Today is a deeply sad day for everyone who knew Doddie but especially his family, who are at the forefront of our thoughts.

“Doddie was a giant as a player but his campaigning following his MND diagnosis made him a colossus.

“When Bryan Redpath first put me in touch with Doddie to speak to Rob Burrow following Rob’s own diagnosis, he immediately said yes without hesitation. The sight of 5’4” Rob and 6’6” Doddie was something that will live with all of us and probably bonded the duo with the great humour they shared.

“Doddie was able to give Rob the greatest gift of hope that night. He has been like a big brother to all of us since that day.

“I know, on behalf of the whole Ultra 7 in 7 team, it was our ultimate honour that Doddie was at Murrayfield just two weeks ago when we set off on our fundraising challenge.

“With his trademark smile, he insisted that he wanted to be there with his new pink trainers on! The fact that a proportion of the money raised from the Ultra 7 in 7 will go to the Foundation set up by Doddie has particular poignancy as we look to continue his legacy on in the years ahead.

“I am honoured to have been able to call Doddie my friend and I know his spirit lives on in all of us who knew him. He will always be a champion.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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British & Irish Lions

Lions and Scotland great Doddie Weir dies aged 52

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Scotland and British & Irish Lions great Doddie Weir has passed away at the age of 52 after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

One of his country’s all-time greats, Weir won 61 caps for Scotland and was selected for the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa.

His Tour was cut short by a serious knee injury suffered while playing against Mpumalanga Province, but despite returning home prior to the Tests – with the Lions beating the world champions 2-1, Weir singled out that experience as one of the best of his career.

Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017, with his charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation having raised more than £5 million pounds since being launched.

A statement from the Weir family said: “It is with great sadness that we announced the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie.

“Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive, 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. Whether working together on the farm, on holiday, or celebrating occasions with wider family and friends, Doddie was always in the thick of it. We are lucky to have shared our lives with him and we cherish all those memories: his love and warmth, his support and advice, his quick wit and his terrible jokes. 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.”

Weir made his Scotland debut in 1990 and was a mainstay of the side for much of the decade, making his final appearance in the 2000 Six Nations against France.

Instantly recognisable for his galloping gait, the great Bill McLaren once described Weir as “on the charge like a mad giraffe.”

As incredible as Weir’s exploits were during his career, what he has done since has arguably been even greater.

After being diagnosed with MND, Weir set up a foundation to raise funds for research into a cure for MND and to provide grants to people living with the condition.

And in the five years since, it has raised more than £5 million for that objective, and will continue to fund research into a cure.

All those at the British & Irish Lions offer their condolences to the Weir family.

Source – British & Irish Lions


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British & Irish Lions

Tributes pour in for Lion and rugby legend Eddie Butler

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #601 and iconic broadcaster Eddie Butler, who has died aged 65.

Butler was called up to The British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 1983, replacing Jeff Squire, and made one appearance.

The No.8 played 16 times for Wales and captained them on six occasions, scoring two tries.

He was a legend at his club side Pontypool, captaining the team between 1982 and 1985, and, after retiring from rugby, he carved out a remarkable career in journalism, broadcasting and commentary.

Tributes have already started pouring in to honour a great of the game, with World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont calling Butler one of the finest commentators of his time.

After beginning his journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent in 1988, Butler began writing for The Observer in 1991.

He joined BBC Wales in 1990, starting his commentary career alongside Bill McLaren before becoming the lead BBC rugby commentator.

His partnership with former Lions and England hooker Brian Moore received widespread acclaim and his commentary partner tweeted that he admired Butler as a broadcaster and as a man.

Butler’s montage-accompanying prose was the backdrop not only to sporting events but to some of the biggest news stories of the last two decades.

The final one he made marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

He commentated on Olympic sports, as well as the Invictus Games, and also put his voice to montages for the BBC’s NFL highlights programmes. He also published three novels and two non-fiction books.

Two-time Tour captain and fellow broadcaster Sam Warburton said: “Stunned at the news and passing of Eddie Butler. Thoughts with his family.

“What an amazing contribution to rugby and broadcasting. A privilege to have played and co-commentated with his voice.”

Scott Quinnell, who toured with the Lions in 1997 and 2001, said: “Absolutely devastated to hear the news. Eddie was such a wonderful man. Always loved our chats especially over a pint. Love and thoughts to Sue and the family.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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