Duncan Hodge has fond memories of Cardiff as a player – and now the former Scotland playmaker is returning to the Welsh capital this weekend as part of a fundraiser to support his good pal Doddie Weir.
On Thursday more than 100 cyclists – some famous rugby names, some very keen rugby supporters – set off in teams of four from BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh to embark on 48 hours of cycling as part of the Doddie Cup 500 to raise funds for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
They are all cycling more than 500 miles between the headquarters of Scottish Rugby and Principality Stadium in Wales and should arrive at the latter on Saturday morning.
The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation – launched by former Scotland and British & Irish Lions second-row Weir who has had motor neurone disease since 2017 – has ploughed £6.5m into MND research over the last four years, supporting the hope that a breakthrough in treatment will be just around the corner.
Hodge – cycling alongside former Scotland internationals Carl Hogg and Craig Joiner and ex-England man Dean Ryan – said before they headed off: “I have been doing some training rides, but I am not sure anything can prepare you for two days on the road.
“It is great that so many people are involved for Doddie.
“He is an amazing guy and he is just so positive. He has helped so many people with MND and if the rugby community can continue to help raise funds for vital research then that is brilliant.
“However, it will be interesting to see what state some of us very much retired players are in come the kick-off of the Wales versus Scotland game on Saturday afternoon, after all this cycling our bodies might be in tatters!”
Hodge, now 47, is a former member of the Scotland backroom staff who most recently helped coach Fiji during the Autumn of 2021. He mentions the Guinness Six Nations Round 2 game between Wales and Scotland on Saturday (2.15pm) and he is looking forward to it.
Indeed, he believes Gregor Townsend’s men should be “full of confidence” in Cardiff as they aim to win in the city for the first time in 20 years.
Two years ago, the Scots did break their hoodoo of being able to win away in Wales in the Guinness Six Nations, but that was in Llanelli and Principality Stadium is a different kettle of fish.
Since a 27-22 victory there in 2002, Scotland have lost eight Championship games and two other fixtures there, so ten in total.
However, a Calcutta Cup victory over England last Saturday coupled with Wales’ injury list and loss in Ireland in Round 1 has left Scottish fans feeling good ahead of the upcoming game.
“Going into this game at the weekend it is two contrasting teams, Scotland coming off a win and Wales off quite a hefty defeat,” Hodge, who now runs Accelerate Rugby, said.
“Apart from Jamie Ritchie being out, Scotland are going into this one fully loaded and full of confidence, but there will be a reaction to the Ireland result from Wales on their own patch, I am sure of that.
“The atmosphere can be intimidating at the Principality, but you have to deal with that and I think Scotland now have the experience to do that, the group is in a very solid place.
“We have a good set-piece, we are tactically astute, we have plenty firepower behind the scrum and we have a good bench to bring on, so all of those things go together well.
“Defensively the team is playing very well, when you know you can suck up pressure and then hit teams on the counter then it is a massive boost, especially at international level.
“Finn Russell is also on excellent form and can turn the game with a moment of magic as he did against England. He can do things that other players simply cannot.”
Back in 2002, Hodge, normally a stand-off and earning his 24th of 26 caps, came off the bench in the last few moments in Cardiff after full-back Brendan Laney got injured, and lined up a long-range kick.
“It was Bill McLaren’s last commentary and very late on we were two points up,” the man who was part of Edinburgh Rugby’s coaching team until last summer recounts.
“I remember thinking ‘the only way we can lose the game from this point is if I hit the post with this kick and the ball is still live and Wales go up the other end and score’!
“It was quite far out, so I smashed it pretty hard and thankfully the ball went over the posts to give us a win by five points.
“Hopefully the Scottish boys can consign that result to history this weekend and make some history of their own.
“I can’t wait to be back at the stadium and I am looking forward to watching the game, the Six Nations standard just keeps going up and up.”
To donate to the Doddie Cup 500, visit justgiving.com/campaign/doddiecup500