Gregor Townsend has offered his support to Roy Laidlaw after the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions scrum-half revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
The 67-year-old has decided to speak out in a bid to encourage others suffering from memory loss to seek help.
He estimates he chalked up more than 500 games during a stellar career which spanned 17 years at his home town club Jed-Forest and also saw him register 47 caps for Scotland and four for the Lions.
Laidlaw – uncle of ex-Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw – believes the blows to the head he suffered during his playing days contributed to his health troubles but has refused to point the finger of blame at rugby chiefs.
Now Townsend has offered his backing to a man he admits was his boyhood hero.
“I knew Roy has been struggling for a wee while now,” said the Scotland head coach. “Roy is a special person to a lot of people in Scottish rugby.
“He was my favourite player growing up. My mum is from Jed so I had a soft spot for a player coming through from Jed.
“He coached me as well. I remember he was excellent as a coach. We came off a bad defeat, I wasn’t playing that well but I remember him really boosting my confidence.
“I think he only coached the national team for a couple of games but one was a one-point win over in Ireland.
“I have great respect as a person for Roy as well and obviously we’re all thinking of him and supporting him at this time.”
In an interview with the Scottish Daily Mail, Laidlaw opened up on his struggles with Alzheimer’s.
An extremely tough year for the old man! We are proud of him and his achievements and miss Mum more than anything! Hopefully others take support from this and seek the help they need! @alzassociation @alzscot https://t.co/NzCS1QLDTb
— Chris Laidlaw (@laidlaw9) October 21, 2020
He said: “I do think the head knocks I got contributed to me getting Alzheimer’s, no question, but it was my decision to play the games I did. Nobody forced me to play.
“If you got a head knock, you were given smelling salts and on you went. It was the same all over the world.
“I was one of the smallest players but I had a big heart and was diving in at folk in the tackle. Doing that clearly didn’t help me and I think the concussions I had would have been a factor in getting Alzheimer’s.
“I’m sure some folk in their early 60s – like I was when it first started to affect me – would put their memory loss down to growing old and dismiss it. I was like that.
“I kept putting off going to the doctor. I never thought I would get Alzheimer’s. Well, I am living proof that anybody can get it.”