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Few alive will have seen Kyle play, but it matters not

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Jack Kyle (far right) at a presentation to honour Ireland's 1948 Grand Slam-winning team, with (from left) Jack Matthews, Jim McCarthy and Bleddyn Williams. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Jack Kyle (far right) at a presentation to honour Ireland's 1948 Grand Slam-winning team, with (from left) Jack Matthews, Jim McCarthy and Bleddyn Williams. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Jack Kyle (far right) at a presentation to honour Ireland's 1948 Grand Slam-winning team, with (from left) Jack Matthews, Jim McCarthy and Bleddyn Williams. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Jackie Kyle was a man who could charm with his affable manner, beguile with his nuanced, deceptive running and who was tough and resilient - no surprise as he saved countless lives when working as a consultant surgeon for over 30 years in the copper-belt of northern Zambia.

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.

Kyle helped Ireland to their first Grand Slam in 1948, and, for generation after generation it looked as if it would be their only one until the class of 2009 laid that bogey, sneaking home against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Kyle was there that day and there is a lovely photograph of him congratulating Brian O'Driscoll, one of the few to challenge Kyle's pre-eminent status.

Kyle won 46 caps for Ireland, six more for the Lions, between 1947-58, a then world record. He won his first cap while still a medical student at Queen's Belfast. He took himself to Indonesia in the early '60s on a humanitarian project, then to Chingola in Zambia, where he stayed until retirement in 2000, a saviour to so many.

Few alive will have seen him play. It matters not. The mind's eye can capture him perfectly. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent