Stand-off ‘proud as punch’ to be back at number 10.
Stand-off Duncan Weir will make his 29th international appearance for Scotland in this Saturday’s inaugural Autumn Nations Cup match against Italy.
It’ll be a first start in over four years for the 29-year-old former Cambuslang man (one of two in the starting line-up, much to the credit and pleasure of all at the Coats Park club), who ended a three-year international absence in the spring, with a replacement appearance in Scotland’s March win over France.
Sport is often guilty of quirks of coincidence – the kind that saw Sean Lamont face Samoa on his first, 50th and 100th cap – with a similar outlook offered in tomorrow’s away contest against Italy, that sees Weir mark his return to start against an opponent many consider synonymous with the playmaker, conjuring up memories of his long-range, last-minute drop goal to snatch a one-point victory in Rome back in 2014.
Three months later he proved the match-winner again as his 79th minute penalty was key in a two-point margin against Argentina – scoring 11 points that day – to secure Scotland a third summer tour victory.
Moments like these go a long way to endearing you to a sport’s faithful.
Weir has been on the successful side in all three of his meetings with tomorrow’s hosts, with a new venue, the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, awaiting his next encounter.
That the ground is home to Italian Serie A side ACF Fiorentina and hosted Italy’s famous 2016 win over South Africa are facts unlikely to be lost on the keen follower of both the round and oval ball games, though understandably his enthusiasm is centred fully on getting his hands on the coveted number 10 shirt once again.
“I’m proud as punch,” was Weir's typically honest assessment in an interview with scottishrugby.org.
“It’s been a rollercoaster journey in between the last start but you always strive to get selected for Scotland.
“My finger’s been on the pulse when the team plays so I’m just looking to go out and enjoy it.
“It’s a huge challenge for me coming into the starting line-up. I want to drive the Scotland performance. I want to make sure we put our best game on the field and, if we do that, I’m confident that we will be successful."
“Italy are a gritty side," he added. "Definitely they are going to bring huge physicality. They’re a very proud team and a very proud nation."
A laid-back and popular figure, Weir enjoys something of a cult status among the Scottish support, with the array of graphics and social media memes accompanying the news he was set to start (and even before in anticipation, once it was confirmed injury would prevent both Finn Russell and Adam Hastings playing any further part in the campaign the week prior).
Alongside landmark Scotland heroics, his reputation was well-established in a six-year spell with Glasgow Warriors and two seasons with Edinburgh (few of the capital club's fans will forget his about-turn from what was initially a loan move to Worcester to kick a drop-goal winner against Ulster at Ravenhill in the PRO14), before returning to the west country and signing permanent terms.
The influential play-maker then registered more than 250 points in all rugby in his first season at Sixways.
Weir has long been associated with one of his game’s key strengths, his kicking and game management, however he believes his time in Worcester has allowed him to express himself successfully in other ways.
Time in the saddle – as so-often tens will attest – has been key to his revitalisation after a series of ill-timed injuries.
“It’s maybe just playing a bit more, with a bit more freedom, I would say,” he mused.
“Probably, in the past, I was maybe being a wee bit too reserved and not just going for an opportunity if you see it and if you feel it.
“I’m just going in and enjoying myself. A run of games is the best thing for a stand-off. You make decisions – most of the decisions probably – so the more games you get, the easier they become and probably your success rate and decision-making creeps higher and higher.
“I’ve played 10 years of professional rugby now, so I’ve got a good bit of experience behind me and I’m still feeling fresh and fit as ever, so I’m hopefully in a good position to go and do the country proud on Saturday.
“I think the change in league was important as well. The English Premiership is a tough old league. You have tough away days and it probably grew me as a player to stand up and meet the challenge
“I feel quite proud that I’ve went down there, stood on my own two feet and made sure I’ve competed.
“For me, especially being down south now, you not only represent your country but [when you come back into camp] you get excited because you go and see all your best mates.
“I’ve got great relationships with a lot of the guys in the squad.
“Stuart Hogg was an usher for me at my wedding and I was an usher for him.
“It’s great seeing these guys. I’ve known these guys from age group rugby, so that’s 10/12 years of relationships and I do think that counts come a match-day, just having that special bond with people you go that extra mile for.
“You’ve got that thistle on your chest so you are going guns blazing to do whatever you can for your country. But I do feel like there is a little extra bit of togetherness when you’ve got special bonds.”
Throughout the conversation there has, of course, been an elephant in the room as Weir’s barnet seeks to challenge the volume of legendary Columbian Carlos Valderrama.
There is of course a serious cause behind it, one that started during lockdown and has raised over eight-thousand pounds to date for Acorns Children's Hospice.