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Tributes as rugby legend Jack Kyle dies aged 88

By Sam Griffin and Emma Jane Hade

The family of Jack Kyle last night said they were "humbled by the genuine warmth and affection" shown by so many people after the Irish rugby great passed away.

Stars past and present, in addition to commentators and analysts, politicians and friends, were among those to honour the Grand Slam-winning Belfast man who was remembered for his humanitarian exploits off the field, as well as his on-field heroics.

He died peacefully in his sleep at his Co Down home on Thursday night, surrounded by his family.

Kyle's son Caleb last night said the outpouring of grief over the 88-year-old's death has been a "great comfort to the family".

He added it was very important that his father's work overseas as a doctor was remembered.

"It's something he was very proud of and something he would want to be remembered for. It was very important to him and he did it for many years knowing there had to be a life outside rugby."

Broadcaster Tom McGurk also recalled his work on the missions.

"He wasn't only a wonderful rugby player, he was a wonderful person. He spent nearly 40 years working on the missions. He could have stayed behind and earned a tidy sum, as he was an excellent doctor and specialist. He devoted a huge part of his life out in Africa to those who needed him most."

Kyle was a key member of the Ireland team that claimed the country's first Five Nations Grand Slam in 1948 and also won six caps for the Lions in a star-studded career.

In 2002 he was voted Ireland's greatest ever player and is considered one of the finest out-halves to ever play the game.

Another out-half Ronan O'Gara described him as "a thorough gentleman".

Brian O'Driscoll recalled the moment he spoke with Kyle just after Ireland won the Grand Slam in 2009: "I had a bit of a rapport with him. It was lovely to share that moment." Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan said he was "an iconic rugby player, a great humanitarian and a wonderful gentleman".

IRFU president Louis Magee said the rugby world was in mourning for a legend, and the Republic's Sports Minister Michael Ring said Kyle "left a lasting legacy which would never be forgotten".

Touching tributes were also paid by those who came up against Kyle, including the New Zealand Rugby Union.

There was also a minute's silence at last night's Munster and Ulster clash in his honour.

Ulster captain and Ireland hooker Rory 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."

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