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Capt. Wayne Kinsel is lifted up by his teammates as an out-of-bounds rugby ball is put back into play during the Armed Forces championships against Coast Guard last month at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the Air Force team took first place.
Capt. Wayne Kinsel is lifted up by his teammates as an out-of-bounds rugby ball is put back into play during the Armed Forces championships against Coast Guard last month at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the Air Force team took first place. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kinsel)
Capt. Wayne Kinsel is lifted up by his teammates as an out-of-bounds rugby ball is put back into play during the Armed Forces championships against Coast Guard last month at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the Air Force team took first place.
Capt. Wayne Kinsel is lifted up by his teammates as an out-of-bounds rugby ball is put back into play during the Armed Forces championships against Coast Guard last month at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the Air Force team took first place. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kinsel)
Capt. Wayne Kinsel, RAF Alconbury’s chief of engineering.
Capt. Wayne Kinsel, RAF Alconbury’s chief of engineering. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

No pads, no problem.

Capt. Wayne Kinsel, RAF Alconbury’s chief of engineering, recently returned from the Armed Forces Rugby championships at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where his Air Force team took first place.

Air Force beat Navy in this year’s military finals, taking their second straight title. Kinsel had five tries (scores) in the second half of the 46-14 win.

“He never missed a tackle,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Holliday, who coached the Air Force team. “He knows how to play the game.”

Playing alongside Kinsel in the Armed Forces tournament was RAF Menwith Hill’s Staff Sgt. Donald Zuehlke. Army Capt. Dwight Bullard, also from Menwith Hill, also played in the tournament on his service’s rugby team.

Kinsel hopes that the combined-services team, which runs Dec. 2-4, will do well against all-star teams from all over the United States.

Holliday said that Kinsel has what it takes to do well during the inter-territorial tournament.

“He’s the kind of player who’s always there, committed and dedicated,” Holliday said. “His performance in the championships highlighted his skill.”

Kinsel started playing rugby while he was a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the late 1990s.

“It seemed like something fun to do,” he said.

What started as “something to do” became a passion for the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder.

Holliday, who played rugby with Kinsel in South Korea, said that those were some of the better years for academy rugby.

“He was coming into the academy at the time it was getting to its top,” he said.

Kinsel eventually became team captain during his 2000-2001 senior year.

“I think rugby is the best team sport in the world,” he said. “It’s 15 against 15. Everybody has a chance to touch the ball.”

Rugby is similar to American football, but there are no forward passes — the ball is passed backwards or kicked forward — and the clock doesn’t stop during play. Not only aren’t there forward passes, but there aren’t any pads, either.

It’s a sport, Kinsel says, in which physical fitness and determination are key. “It really is one of the most simple sports to learn the basics,” he said. “Obviously hand-eye coordination is important and a little toughness because it’s full contact.”

Rugby has become more than competition and full contact for Kinsel, though. His new wife, Brianna Huot, played rugby with him while he was stationed in North Dakota, and their wedding party was made up of rugby buddies.

The sport is more than a game, it’s a way of life. Especially here in England, he said.

“You’re where rugby started,” he said. “Every village has a rugby club.”

Although England, South Africa and New Zealand are three of the world’s top countries for rugby, Kinsel said he’s seen it take root in the U.S.

“In the next 15 years, the U.S. will be a powerhouse,” he said.

The rules of the pitch

The basic game of rugby involves two teams trying to score as many points as possible by carrying, passing, kicking or grounding a ball into the goal area during the timed match.

In many ways it’s similar to American football, but there are no separate offensive or defensive teams, and substitutions are only made for injuries.

Grounding the ball in the goal area is called a try and is worth 5 points. After a try, a place or drop kick is used to get the ball over the goal posts for 2 more points.

A team member also can drop kick the ball over the goal during play for 3 points and penalty kicks are worth 3 points.

During play, the ball is run or kicked forward — it cannot be thrown forward, but can be thrown backwards. Play only stops when a try is scored, the ball goes out-of-bounds or for an infringement.

Out-of-bounds balls are thrown in while the two teams line up facing each other perpendicular to the touch-lines (sidelines) in an action called a line-out. One player is raised up by other players to catch the ball.

Infringements results in a penalty, free kick or a scrum. In a scrum, the forwards of each team lock together and push against their opposite numbers, trying to get the ball to their side, where it will be placed back in play.

More information about the Air Force Rugby team is available on their Web site at www.usafrugby.com. Those interested in taking part in Air Force tryouts next year can contact coach Lt. Col. Kenneth Holliday at: kgholliday@aol.com.

— Jason Chudy

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