Doddie Weir diagnosed with motor neurone disease

Former Scotland international Doddie Weir
Weir, who earned 61 caps for Scotland, wants to help fellow sufferers

Former Scotland international Doddie Weir has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Weir, who earned 61 caps, announced his diagnosis to raise awareness of the condition for Global MND Awareness Day.

Speaking during a family holiday in New Zealand, Weir, 46, revealed plans to create a charitable foundation to help tackle the debilitating disease.

"I will devote my time towards assisting research... to help my fellow sufferers," he said.

MND - also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease - is a progressive disease. It occurs when specialised nerve cells called motor neurons break down.

Former British & Irish Lion Weir, now an after-dinner speaker, said his health had become a source of concern.

''Over the past few months a number of friends and family have raised concerns surrounding my health," he said.

"I think then, that on this day set to help raise awareness of the condition, I should confirm that I too have Motor Neurone Disease. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the National Health Service in recognising then diagnosing this, as yet, incurable disease.

"I am currently on holiday in New Zealand with Kathy and the boys and when we return, I will devote my time towards assisting research and raising awareness and funds to help support fellow sufferers.

"There are plans in place to create a charitable foundation to help in any way we can and we will share these details with you after our family trip."

Gregor Townsend's tweet
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend tweeted his support for his former team-mate

Scottish Rugby said in a statement: "Doddie gave distinguished service to the national team for 10 years and has been a terrific ambassador for the sport.

"He is a larger-than-life character and Scottish Rugby will look to support him and the charity initiative he has described."

His former Scotland team-mate Scott Hastings, whose mother-in-law died from the illness in recent years, said he was "in tears" when Weir phoned to tell him about his condition a few weeks ago.

"It is an awful, cruel disease," Hastings told BBC Radio Scotland. "But Doddie, like the rest of his life, has approached everything with a real relish to challenge the disease.

"He's one of the great characters of Scottish rugby."

Craig Stockton, chief executive of MND Scotland, spoke of his sadness at learning of Weir's condition.

"This is devastating news for anyone but especially for someone with a young family and for whom physical fitness has been such an important part of his life," he said.

"It is very brave of him to come forward publicly to share his diagnosis and raise awareness of the illness. MND Scotland will be here to support him and his family and all those affected by MND in Scotland."

Doddie Weir
Doddie Weir is a popular after-dinner speaker