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Irish rugby remembers Jack Kyle

Jack Kyle, one of Ireland's all-time rugby greats and a star to "transcend generations", has died aged 88.

The former Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions fly-half passed away on Thursday night.

"Jack died peacefully in his sleep at home last night, surrounded by close family members," his family said in a statement.

Belfast-born Kyle won 46 caps for Ireland and six for the Lions, and guided his national side to their first-ever Five Nations Grand Slam in 1948.

In 2002 Kyle was voted Ireland's greatest-ever player, underlining his standing alongside the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Willie John McBride as the country's most-celebrated rugby stars.

Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best led widespread tributes by hailing Kyle as "a genius of the game".

"I remember my father and grandfather talking about Jack Kyle and what a great player he was in his time," said Best.

"But for him still to be looked upon by modern-day players as a genius of the game shows what a legend he was.

"There are very few players who transcend generations like he has done, but when you look back at clips of some of the stuff he did, he was well ahead of his time.

"We talk about his playing achievements but he was a real gentleman as well as a rugby great.

"I've met him a few times, particularly in 2009 when we won the Grand Slam, and he spoke so fondly of his time playing rugby.

"He spoke so graciously to us and you genuinely felt that he was happy to share what we'd been through because he'd done it back in 1948.

"He never tried to force anything on you but he had so much knowledge to impart that you couldn't help but listen and be engrossed by what he had to say.

"There is a wonderful tribute to him in the new tunnel at Kingspan Stadium and it's very special to have his legacy to inspire us.

"He was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and it's a privilege to follow in his footsteps as an Ulster Rugby player."

Kyle spent more than 30 years working as a consultant surgeon in Chingola, Zambia, at the end of his playing career.

Following his retirement Kyle returned to Northern Ireland, living in Bryansford near Newcastle, County Down.

Awarded the OBE in 1959, Kyle forged a formidable reputation as a playmaker of both substance and style.

Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) president Louis Magee extended his "sincere condolences to the Kyle family".

"Jack is a true legend and gentleman of the game and he will be fondly remembered by everyone in the world of rugby."

In a 2002 poll organised by the IRFU, Kyle was voted the country's best player of all time.

Born in Belfast in 1926, Kyle read medicine at Queen's University, making his Ireland debut against the British Army in a friendly during the Second World War.

Kyle played in all four matches of Ireland's 1948 Grand Slam triumph, the achievement heightened by the country's 61-year wait for a repeat.

When O'Driscoll led Ireland to their 2009 Grand Slam in Cardiff, Kyle was on hand to witness the success.

While also helping Ireland to Five Nations titles in 1949 and 1951, Kyle won his six Test caps for the Lions on the 1950 tour of Australia and New Zealand.

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