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Maurice Field: Jack Kyle's passion for the game was amazing

By Michael Sadlier

He was such an affable and genuine person and it was really a privilege to have known him.

So says former Ulster and Ireland player Maurice Field who recalls how as a young player he would listen as Mike Gibson, another legendary player from these parts, used to speak of Jack Kyle's massive influence.

When Gibson was an up and coming player, Kyle would have spoken to him and taken time to assist a younger man towards taking his game to a different level. It was typical of Kyle, wanting to impart knowledge yet not aiming to be a dominant influence on anyone on their way up.

"Kyle passed on how to play heads-up rugby based on skill and evasion," says Field, who also paid tribute to Kyle's good works in Zambia where he worked as a surgeon from the mid 1960s until his retirement brought him home in 2000.

"I met Jack on several occasions," Field recalls, "and his love and passion for the game never diminished. He was also so articulate when talking about the game as well."

The former centre recalls meeting Kyle after one of last year's autumn internationals and having "a lovely conversation" with the man who played such a key role in Ireland's first Grand Slam in 1948 and yet was still interested attending internationals.

"Yes, he was synonymous with that '48 team," says Field, "and he was an iconic figure with Ulster and Irish rugby.

"His legacy is really one of being a totally genuine person and I'm sure Ulster Rugby will do something to remember him and mark his influence on the game here."

Field also recalls Kyle as a man who was eager to be involved with the game again, after coming back to Northern Ireland.

"He was a massive advocate of the game and its amateur ethos but he was also astute enough to understand that the game had to go professional and this in no way diminished his enthusiasm for it.

"I was actually lucky enough to play for University of Ulster against Queen's University in a colours match and he was really a tremendous supporter of university rugby as well which he saw as vitally important," he added.

As for the legend who was the player, Field reckons that it was more than just his on-field exploits which helped in this regard as international players back then spent larger amounts of time together when on tour and that this built strong bonds between individuals.

As a senior player, Kyle took time to get to know all those around him and this, in turn, ensured his influence as a special player and person was passed on through the decades, ensuring his name and exploits were never allowed to fade into the background.

"He was known and loved by everybody in Ulster rugby circles and was also known and loved by the Irish rugby public as a whole," added Field.

No better tribute than that.

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