"We talk about gentleman, I could not sum that word up any better than saying - give me Jack Kyle."
Willie John McBride
It's hard to fathom it with the success that Irish Rugby has had in the last 15 years, but way back in 1947, the greatest ever Irish Rugby player Jack Kyle began his international career. It's difficult to imagine that a 22 year old with just a year's international experience can be so influential, but in 1948, Kyle was the key part of Ireland's first ever grand slam.
Here are 6 other facts you may not have known about Jack Kyle:
1. He took up rugby very late
From an interview with Turtle Bunberry, it was revealed that Kyle only began to take rugby seriously when he went to Queen's University. He was inspired by his older brother Eric, who got an Irish trial and played for Ulster. Jack himself played for Ulster schools, but it wasn't until a rival outhalf broke his leg when Jackie was in Queen's University that he finally got his chance to play for the university's team. That was the break he needed to secure his place in the team, and he wouldn't give it up. This was 1944, and it would lead to an uncapped friendly appearance for Ireland against a British Army XV before the end of the war.
2. Kyle Was Once Named in the top 6 players in the world
It's frequently known that Kyle was regarded as the best outhalves in the world at his peak. To put that into context, only 3 or 4 Irish players of the professional era can have similar claims. But what's most impressive is when you are highly regarded by the rugby crazy people in New Zealand. After his heroics for the British Isles team, now called the British Lions, on their tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1950, the 24 year old Jack Kyle was named in the New Zealand Almanac's top 6 players in the world.
3. Jack Kyle's try against France in 1953 was so enamoured, it has its own poem.
His solo try scored against France in Ravenhill in 1953 was so impressive that a watching journalist parodied "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.
4. Kyle finished his career with a then world record number of international caps.
Jack Kyle won 47 caps for Ireland spanning 11 years. His international career began in 1947, and it wasn't until 1952 that the Irish rugby team resumed overseas tours following the war. Before that time, Ireland averaged 4.3 games a year. That's compared to at least 10 that Ireland play in the current era.
5. Jack Kyle is revered all over the world, and not just for his rugby exploits.
The brilliant BBC documentary "A Cut Above" from 2010 about Jack Kyle captures his years after rugby brilliantly. Kyle was a highly educated surgeon, who was very fond of poetry. In the 1960s, he worked as a surgeon in India and Sumatra before the Sumatran president began evicting Europeans. He moved to Zambia in 1966, where he remained until 2003.
Kyle was the only surgeon in the Chingola, where he worked, and faced untold number of challenges, including the AIDS epidemic. I think it's extremely well captured in this trailer for "A Cut Above" from 2010.
Via The Examiner, the producer on "A Cut Above" said of Kyle
It is hard to describe the welcome Jack received. Everywhere we went in Chingola, people stopped him. Some were old, some were young, some were wealthy, some were from the townships. All, though, treated Jack with reverence. They were completely in awe of the man who had treated almost everyone in the region. As the only surgeon in Chingola and the next town, Jack had no specialists to refer patients to. If he did not perform the operation, regardless of the field, it simply did not happen. His enthusiasm for medicine still shines through.
6. The Greatest Irish Rugby Player Of All Time
In 2002, after witness Irish greats such as Syd Millar, Mike Gibson, Tony O'Reilly, Ronnie Dawson, Fergus Slattery, Keith Wood, and Willie John McBride, the IRFU awarded him the title of Greatest Ever Irish Rugby Player.
He was also inducted into both the International Rugby Hall of Fame, and the IRB Hall of Fame. He was the first Irish player inducted into the IRB Hall Of Fame, which now holds 6 Irish names.
He was also the first name inducted into the Ulster Rugby hall of fame.