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The great man's passing marks the end of an era, says Johns

By Michael Sadlier

Former Ulster and Ireland player Denis McBride had taken in the news not long before he was due to board a flight out of Dublin airport, but still took the time to pause and pay tribute to one of the greatest players the game has produced.

Indeed, Jack Kyle's death has, unsurprisingly, brought fulsome tributes from all those involved in the game here even though most would never have seen him play.

"You always heard about him and you'd seen all the clips and really, to still be talking about him in such revered terms after 60 or so years really highlights what a remarkable player he was," said McBride. "It's very sad but his life was so much more than just rugby," the former flanker added.

"One of the things already on my Christmas list this year is the book his daughter has recently brought out about his remarkable achievements in medical care.

"It was a part of his life that is not that well known but is just as remarkable as what he achieved while playing rugby," McBride added.

He also recalled how notable it is that the name 'Jack Kyle' had managed to resonate down through the decades and that the youthful David Humphreys was dubbed 'Jackie' in honour of the great man.

Former Ireland captain Paddy Johns recalled a "warm and kind man" when speaking of Kyle.

"He was a great man and his passing is really like the end of an era I suppose," said Johns of the legend who played such a central role in Ireland's first Grand Slam.

"His death is a great loss to Ulster and Irish rugby and I extend my deepest sympathy to all his family."

Johns' memories of the late legend are of someone who would hardly have given much away about his glorious playing past such was his modesty.

"He was just a lovely, unassuming man but he had done so much that you could probably write a whole newspaper about him.

"Even though he was quite an age, it still is a bit of shock that he has gone," said Johns (right).

"He was really such a legend of the game that I suppose you almost felt that he would always be around."

Former team-mate Syd Millar said: "It was a privilege to play alongside Jack.

"He was revered throughout the world of rugby, and off the field as well.

"Jack was a gentleman, a Christian and a great rugby player. I think that sums him up."

"Jack was, arguably, the best number 10 ever to pull on a pair of boots.

"He was a great surgeon too. And he could have had a more lucrative life as a surgeon had he stayed closer to home.

"But he spent over 30 years in Zambia, often in very rudimentary circumcances, and he told me once that a third of the people he operated on had AIDS.

"But he didn't baulk at that, and the Zambians simply revered him."

Millar said Jack could never understand the adulation for him that emanated from the world of rugby and beyond.

"As far as he was concerned, Jack was just a man who played rugby. He was always extremely modest," he added.

Daily Telegraph rugby writer Mick Cleary said Jack was a man who could charm with his affable manner, beguile with his nuanced, deceptive running and yet he remained tough and resilient.

"That's no surprise as he saved countless lives when working as a consultant surgeon for over 30 years in the copper-belt of northern Zambia." said Cleary.

"He was modest and engaging, could quote WB Yeats and Robert Frost in conversation without appearing the least bit pretentious or forced, rather like his style of play on the field, and who was without doubt the greatest of them all."

Cleary added: "Few alive will have seen him play. It matters not. The mind's eye can capture him perfectly."

Belfast Telegraph


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