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Ulster star Best leads tributes to the best of them all

By Ali Gordon

Hundreds of people took to social media yesterday to offer their condolences for rugby legend Professor Jack Kyle.

As the floods of messages poured in, some of the sporting world's most talented rugby stars expressed heartfelt words at the loss of one of the game's greatest ever players.

Ulster hooker Rory Best led the tributes by hailing fly-half Kyle as "a genius". Best said: "I remember my father and grandfather talking about Jack Kyle and what a great player he was in his time. But for him still to be looked upon by modern-day players as a genius of the game shows what a legend he was.

"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."

What became evident yesterday was the profound effect that Kyle has had on Ulster players after so many current squad members wrote heartfelt words about their loss.

Best also reflected on the precious time he spent with Kyle when Ireland won the Grand Slam in 2009 and remembered the fondness of which Kyle spoke with when reminiscing about his glittering rugby career.

He added: "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."

Another player to have enjoyed Kyle's company at the 2009 Grand Slam tournament was Ronan O'Gara. The only other out-half to have won a Grand Slam with Ireland, O'Gara took to Twitter to say: "Was great to have shared the day with Jack Kyle in Cardiff in '09. A thorough gentleman. Deepest sympathies to his loved ones."

Brian O'Driscoll, who was beaten by Kyle in a 2002 poll to decide Ireland's greatest player, echoed his former Ireland team-mate's words by saying: "Rest in peace Jack Kyle. A terrific player and a proper gentleman."

A number of international rugby teams, including the All Blacks, Scotland and the British Lions, also professed their sympathies to the sensational player who was capped 46 times by Ireland and six for the Lions.

Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters also relayed her sadness. She said: "So sorry to hear of the passing of my great friend, the legendary Jack Kyle. My thoughts are with his family."

Outside of the sporting community, Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt declared: "Jack Kyle was a role model for any generation - world class sportsman, humble gentleman, humanitarian. A great Ulsterman."

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