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Ireland's greatest rugby player Jackie Kyle dies aged 88

THE man who was honoured as Ireland's greatest ever rugby player has died at the age of 88.

Grand Slam-winning captain Jackie Kyle passed away in his home in Belfast last night.

Tributes began to pour in this afternoon.

"Rest in peace Jack Kyle. One of the greatest players to have ever represented Ulster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions," Ulster Rugby said in a statement.

Former Ireland star Ronan O'Gara offered his deepest sympathies to Mr Kyle's family.

"It was great to have shared the day with Jack Kyle in Cardiff in 09," O'Gara said, recalling Ireland's most recent Grand Slam triumph when Mr Kyle was present and was pictured with then Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll.

Mr Kyle was the Irish captain 61 years earlier, the last time Ireland won a Grand Slam.

Born in Belfast on January 10, 1926, he was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and studied medicine at Queen's University.

The fly half earned 46 Irish caps between 1946 and 1958 and represented the British and Irish Lions on their tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1950.

After retiring from club rugby in 1963, he embarked on humanitarian work in Sumatra and Indonesia. Between 1966 and 2000 he worked as a surgeon in Zambia.

In 1999 Mr Kyle was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, and in 2002 he was named the Greatest Ever Irish Rugby Player by the IRFU.

Following a try against France in 1953, journalist Paul MacWeeney compared him with the Scarlet Pimpernel.

"They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. That paragon of pace and guile, that damned elusive Jackie Kyle," he wrote.


In an interview with ESPN earlier this year, Mr Kyle humbly played down being named the greatest.

"The whole idea of being described as the greatest player is partly down to the team they are in," he said.

"If you were asked that now, people would say O'Driscoll or Sexton. I think you're talking about a certain era.

"I don't think the forwards were considered as much as the three-quarters."