IRB Hall of Fame - Induction No 9 - Dr John Wilson "Jackie" Kyle OBE (1926-), Ireland

Personal Details

- Born: 10 January, 1926 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- Died: 27 November, 2014 aged 88.
- Family: Brother Eric, who also played for Ulster, and sister Elisabeth. Married to Shirley. They have two children, son Caleb and daughter Justine.
- Education: Belfast Royal Academy (BRA). A medical student, he graduated from Queen's University Medical Student in 1951.
- Nicknames: Jack , Ghost, Jackie, Scarlet Pimpernel.
- Awards: Voted one of the top six players in the world by the NZ Rugby Almanac after the 1950 Lions tour; Voted the greatest ever Irish player by an IRFU poll in 2002; Honorary Doctorate awarded by Queen's University, Belfast in 1991; Lifetime achievement by the Irish Journal of Medical Science and the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland; Awarded an OBE.

Professional career

- Graduated with a doctorate in medicine from Queen University, Belfast in 1951.
- Started his career as a GP in Belfast and in 1962 he went to work in Indonesia on a humanitarian project.
- He returned to Northern Ireland and in 1966 took up an appointment at a hospital in Chingola in Zambia, where he worked until his retirement in 2000.
- He has returned to live in County Down in Northern Ireland and in 2001 set up the Jack Kyle bursary fund to support the Queen's University Rugby Academy.

Rugby career

- Began playing at school, at the Belfast Royal Academy
- All his career he played for one club: Queen's University RFC, Belfast
- Played for Ulster
- Played for Ireland 46 times, scored 46 points, including seven tries and one drop goal.
- International debut - 25 January, 1947 v France.
- Last Test for Ireland - 1 March, 1958 v Scotland.
- Elected a Barbarian for the first time against Cardiff on 28 March 1948. He captained the Barbarians versus East Midlands in 1952.
- Played for the British and Irish Lions in 19 tour matches of which six were tests (New Zealand 4 and Australia 2)
- First match for the Lions - 13 May, 1950 v Buller.
- Test debut for the Lions - 27 May, 1950 v New Zealand.
- Last Lions match - 18 September, 1950 v Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in a non-cap international.
- Played 42 Five Nations Championship matches, winning 22, losing 16 and drawing 4.

Rugby highlights

- Won the Triple Crown in 1948 and 1949.
- Won the Grand Slam in 1948.
- Won the Five Nations in 1951.
- Captained Ireland six times (won 2, lost 3, drew 1).
- In his last game against Scotland on 1 March 1958, he became the most capped player in international rugby with 52 selections - 46 for Ireland and six for the Lions - overtaking Jean Prat of France, who had finished in 1955 with 51 caps.
- Played in every post-war international for Ireland until he was selected for the Lions in 1950.
- Played in every Five Nations tournament from 1947 to 1958.
- Played for and captained the Barbarians.
- Played for Ireland in one Services International against British Army in 1945 in Belfast and in two 1946 Victory Internationals (against France and England).
- Played for Ulster against the 1945 Kiwis, Australia in 1947 and South Africa in 1951 and for the Lions against Cardiff in 1951.

Rugby statistics

- During his Ireland career he was partnered by eight scrum-halves. He played with John O'Meara 19 times, which equalled the Irish and all-time record of starting half-back partnerships held by Ireland's Mark Sugden and Eugene Davy. The next on his partners' list were Andy Mulligan and Ernie Strathdee with nine appearances each, then he played three times with Raymond Carroll and twice with each of John Burges and Hugh de Lacy and once each with Thomas Cullen and Sean McDermott. Kyle and O'Meara's world record was broken by France's Pierre Lacroix and Pierre Albaladejo in 1963.
- During the Lions tour he played with three different scrum-halves, AW Black in two tests, G Rimmer and WR Willis in one each.
- Currently he is 14th on the all-time list of most capped fly-halves to have started an international.
- He was the first fly half to win his 50th cap - against Australia in 1958. The record was equalled by Stefano Bettarello of Italy in 1987. There are 16 players to have now achieved the feat, with Australia's Stephen Larkham leading the way with 85 appearances.

Rugby tours:

He was selected for the 1950 British and Irish tour to New Zealand and Australia and played in 19 matches, including the six tests.

What he said

"In our day it was a heavy leather ball with a leather lace. On the mud in the Mardyke it was like a bib, heavy bar of soap. You couldn't get players kicking goals from the incredible distance that they do now with the new, light ball. Then, players often wore boots with steel toes and kicked with the point of the toe using a straight run towards the ball. Now they kick with the side of the foot."

"I was not a great tackler. If I had to play rugby as a forward I would have never played the game. "

"Karl (Mullen) was a wonderful captain. His greatest gift was to let the men play to their full potential."

"I was doubly blessed in that I also had Noel Henderson playing alongside me in the centre. He was a marvellous defender, performing many of my defensive duties and I am not saying that because he was my brother-in-law."

"There are a tremendous amount of unsung heroes in the game, especially in the pack".

"The famous poet Louis MacNiece was doing a radio broadcast here in Belfast one evening. He was asked if he could make one wish, what would it be. His answer was that he would love to play rugby like Jack Kyle. That's the compliment that meant the most to me."

"If parents come up and tell me their son is thinking of university, but has been offered a £50,000 contract by a club, if he's not sure, I'd say, go and get a degree."

"I suppose you are not really a player if you are not dropped."

On the Lions tour: "It was a remarkable experience for a young guy, it really was like travelling to the end of the Earth, we visited schools and got to see all of the sights, there was absolutely no pressure on us at all, we had no coach, I suppose we did not need a plan when we played for the Lions, it was all spontaneous."

On the Grand Slam: "We didn't realise at the time it was so special, we certainly didn't think we'd be the only Grand Slam winners last century, we thought plenty of other teams would do it, but we have been dining out on it ever since."

"It is great to have maintained so many friendships after so long, sometimes I wonder what our lives had been without our sport. It enriched our lives, we were born with the ability to do certain things on a rugby field that you dreams you could never do."

What they said about him

Karl Mullen (Kyle's Ireland and Lions captain): "There would have been no tour (1950 Lions tour to Australia and NZ) without Jack Kyle."

Barry Coughlan (journalist): "Kyle teased and tantalised both Australia and New Zealand with a series of brilliant displays, all of which promoted even the most partisan of fans to declare that he was the best they have seen. That opinion has been endorsed many times over."

Cliff Morgan (Wales, the Lions and Barbarians - Kyle's opponent) - "Two years before I had gone to Penarth with my father to watch Kyle play in the Barbarian game. 'Now there's a player that you ought to be like,' my father had said. He was so beautifully balanced and had this gift of lulling opposition into a false sense of security. You'd think he was doing nothing, and yet in an instant he'd pull the ball back, and there he was in a position to score or make a try."

Wallace Reyburn (writer): "Jack Kyle for instance. Not merely contender for the title of the world's best post-war fly half, but among the all time greats in that position."

John Griffiths (rugby historian): "Kyle was the supreme outside half. A brilliant runner, he was a player who could be a match-winner in attack and a match-saver through his tackling and covering in defence…With the ball in his hands and on the attack, he showed that he was a pivot capable of thinking as quickly as he could run."

Edmund van Esbeck (rugby writer): "Ireland had in Queen's University player Jack Kyle, the best outside half in the game".

Belfast Telegraph in 1953 after the France match:

"They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
That paragon of pace and guile,
That dammed elusive Jackie Kyle."