British & Irish Lions
16 February 2023 12:39 Reading Time: 2 mins
New images highlight important role of tech in connecting the players to the fans during 2021 Tour, the most connected yet
Vodafone, Lead Partner of the British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa, has today released a series of powerful new images of ambassadors, Maro Itoje and first-time Lions Hamish Watson and Louis Rees-Zammit. The images see emotive and personal social media messages of support from Lions fans across the four nations projected onto each of the star rugby players.
Vodafone and the British and Irish Lions are brands united by a shared commitment to connect people to each other and the things they love. The new imagery is a powerful demonstration of how Vodafone is bringing fans closer to the 2021 Tour and the squad than ever before through its digital-first campaign.
The images have been released ahead the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup which takes place on Saturday 26 June at Murrayfield, Edinburgh. The messages of encouragement from fans will help to motivate players as they gear up for the game against Japan and prepare to leave the UK for the Tour – letting them know that the four nations are behind them, despite fans being unable to travel to South Africa this Summer.
The imagery shows how the power of the connectivity can bring players and fans together, which is more important than ever with no travelling fans.
Max Taylor, Consumer Director at Vodafone UK, said: “We are excited to be able to give Lions fans and players an opportunity to unite and connect ahead of the upcoming Tour. This is more important now than it has ever been. We hope these messages will show the players that even though British & Irish Lions fans can’t be there, they’re still very much cheering them on”.
Maro Itoje said: “Fans are such an important part of any sport and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason why most of us play. With no fans there is an evident missing piece. It’s incredible seeing how much support we have as a team and it is a huge boost for the whole squad as we head to South Africa.”
Hamish Watson said: “We’ve all missed having fans there with us – they really do have the power to inspire us. So being able to receive these incredible fan messages has been a great boost. It has spurred me and the team on even more to do them proud. We love to the see the messages so please keep the support coming while we are on tour.”
Louis Rees-Zammit said: “It’s been a tough year not being able to connect with fans physically. So, we are grateful for the power of technology and social media that has allowed us to stay connected and motivate us for this upcoming tour. This is my first Lions Tour and the support so far has been overwhelming.”
Vodafone has named six official player ambassadors spanning all four nations for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa this Summer – Captain Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Hamish Watson (Scotland), Tadgh Furlong (Ireland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales) and Maro Itoje (England). Other partnership ambassadors include Maggie Alphonsi, Emily Scarratt and ex Lions legends Sir Ian McGeechan, Sam Warburton, Jeremy Guscott and Paul O’Connell.
Maro Itoje, Hamish Watson and Louis Rees-Zammit are official Vodafone ambassadors for the 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa. Vodafone is using the power of connectivity to bring fans closer to the Tour than ever before. Download the official Lions app, powered by Vodafone to start the experience now.
British & Irish Lions loosehead prop Jack McGrath has announced his retirement from the game at the age of 33 to spend more time with his family.
Over the course of his career, McGrath won 59 caps for Ireland, while he was part of the Lions team that drew the Test series in New Zealand in 2017.
During his team on that Tour, McGrath made seven appearances, the first coming as a starter in the clash with the Blues before coming off the bench in six more games.
That included appearances as a replacement in all three Tests, as the Lions and the All Blacks drew 1-1.
Prior to that, McGrath had been a key figure for Ireland in two victorious Six Nations campaigns in 2014 and 2015, as well as starting their historic first win over the All Blacks in 2016.
However, a serious hip injury disrupted the latter part of McGrath’s career, and he was released by Ulster at the end of last season.
Now, at the age of 33, McGrath has made the decision to call time on his career, explaining in a statement that his priority is his family, rather than attempting to make another comeback.
“This decision has taken a considerable amount of time, it has been one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make,” McGrath said.
“The last few years have been extremely testing for myself and my family, both mentally and physically. I feel I have given everything to my rugby career and I have no regrets or anything left to prove.
“It’s been a long road of rehabilitation after two hip resurfacing operations. My main focus now is my family and I am excited for this next chapter with them.
“I am in a position now where I have a comfortable, pain-free life and can be an active dad, which I have chosen over going back to play rugby.”
Source – British & Irish Lions
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”.
Very sorry to hear about the death of Doddie Weir. An outstanding man in every sense and one who will be sorely missed.
RIP Big Man.
— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) November 26, 2022
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”.
We lost the most lovable man in the world today!
DODDIE WEIR we will honour your legacy & find a cure for MND @MNDoddie5 #tacklemnd #doddieaid #united2endmnd pic.twitter.com/HjYS2S4bmD
— Scott Hastings (@ScottHastings13) November 26, 2022
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.
Very sad to hear the news about Doddie Weir. He led my example, inspiring so many others with MND and made great strides towards treatment and ultimately finding a cure for the disease. He leaves behind an incredible legacy. Our sympathy goes to his wife and 3 boys. RIP Doddie 🏴 https://t.co/0ukiPsOPaO
— Sir Kenny Dalglish (@kennethdalglish) November 26, 2022
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.”
“He embodied everything the game stands for”
The Prime Video team speak about Doddie Weir after the sad news of his passing pic.twitter.com/fuEcrsKELP
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) November 26, 2022
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.
Dearest Doddie you have inspired so many people on the rugby pitch and in your relentless campaigning for MND. We were lucky to call you a friend. To see you as the adoring husband to Cathy and the best Dad to Hamish, Angus and Ben was to really know you. We will all miss you 💙
— Gabby Logan (@GabbyLogan) November 26, 2022
Even though we knew it was inevitable, it’s no less of a shock. Rest in peace Doddie, we’ll all keep fighting to help find a cure. 💔 pic.twitter.com/WzKMQWdnmo
— Sir Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) November 26, 2022
Outside the world of sport, author and Scotland fan JK Rowling paid her respects, as did the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Incredibly sad to hear about the death of Doddie Weir. A wonderful, funny, warm and courageous man who’ll be deeply missed. pic.twitter.com/bZQ9tVCRxR
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) November 26, 2022
Doddie Weir was a hero – we are so sad to hear of his passing. His immense talent on the pitch as well as his tireless efforts to raise awareness of MND were an inspiration. Our thoughts are with all those who loved him. He will be hugely missed across the entire rugby world. W&C
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) November 26, 2022
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
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.”
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 26, 2022
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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