Tuesday 10 December 2019

Just being on the same pitch as Kyle was an honour - Williams

Former Ulster coach Harry Williams says he believes Jack Kyle's impact on the game 'is greater than any other player I've ever known'. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Former Ulster coach Harry Williams says he believes Jack Kyle's impact on the game 'is greater than any other player I've ever known'. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Michael Sadlier

Ulster's European Cup-winning coach Harry Williams has the distinction of playing against Jack Kyle when the latter's playing days were drawing to a close in the early 1960s.

Back then it was not entirely unusual for school teams to take on adult sides, which is how Williams, then at Sullivan Upper, came to take the field in opposition to the Grand Slam hero.

Needless to say it was an occasion that Williams has never forgotten and took place just before Kyle departed overseas in his medical career, as the former coach recounted with fondness.

"I was still at school when I played against him as he was right at the end of his career.

"It was Sullivan first XV against the then North (of Ireland) Wednesday team and I think it was just before he went to Zambia," Williams recalled.

"Playing against him that day I remember absolutely made everyone's day and at that stage was definitely the highlight of my career."

As for any opportunity of felling the legend or putting him under pressure, Williams laughs at the memory of a bunch of overeager schoolboys being shown the ropes by a man who was still masterful in his play.

"He was at out-half and even then we still just couldn't get near him. I played No 7 and just couldn't touch him even then."

Williams went on to try and explain what Kyle meant to all those who played rugby and, essentially, the legend was created pure and simply through how he played the game.

"'Jack Kyle' is one of those names that will stick in the mind forever and he was a true gentleman," says Williams.

"It's really amazing that someone from that time made such an impact on world rugby and he is even still revered in New Zealand where he was on a Lions tour.

"I think his impact is greater than any other player I've ever known."

He also brings up the famous picture taken in the aftermath of Ireland's 2009 Grand Slam success, when Kyle is seen shaking hands with Brian O'Driscoll, as epitomising just what the older man meant to those who followed him.

"I just love that image from 2009 when Brian O'Driscoll met him just after winning the Slam," Williams explains.

"O'Driscoll just had so much respect and so much reverence for him. That was magical."

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The problem with the Champions Cup, the Stephen Larkham effect and trouble in Welsh rugby

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport