The Locker Room

Scrum machine pioneer passes away

The founder of Rhino Rugby, Tim Francis, has passed away at his home in Exeter, aged 83. Everyone at the Rhino Group globally sends sincere condolences to the Francis family on their loss.

It was while Head of Sport at Dulwich College in the late 1970s, that Tim, an outstanding rugby coach and keen amateur inventor, developed the Powerhouse. 

Tim retired from teaching and moved to Devon in the early 80s to focus on developing the Powerhouse and his Rhino Rugby brand. The Powerhouse would soon become the world’s first mass-produced scrum machine. 

First taking off commercially in South Africa, the Powerhouse was used by England for the first time to prepare for internationals in 1981, but the breakthrough moment came from the Australians. The Wallabies used it during their Grand Slam-winning tour of 1984 and famously pushed the Welsh pack over their own line for try. 

Phil Keith-Roach, the England Rugby World Cup-winning scrum coach (who took the machine with England around Australia during the successful 2003 campaign) said: “Tim Francis was a tremendously creative and practical man whose drive and energy created both Rhino Rugby itself and a whole new product category within rugby. He was moreover a lovely man and will be greatly missed. He was a true friend and a wonderful travelling companion as we attempted to open new markets from Japan to Australia to South Africa to Ireland. Wherever we went with the machine the club never wanted us to take it away – they would do whatever they could to stop us taking it away. We only ever had one with us when we were away so we had to come back quickly and make them one to send over. After that Wallabies tour, we had 50 orders in a month – we couldn't keep up."

Descendants of the original Powerhouse were used by both sides in the recent British & Irish Lions series in New Zealand and Rhino Rugby has been official supplier to England Rugby for 33 years. Wales, France, South Africa, the USA and many other countries and professional clubs also use Rhino.

Rhino Group CEO Reg Clark, said: “Rhino is obviously massively indebted to Tim not only as the founder of the company and the creator of our original product, but also for his example and inspiration.  He was a generous person who treated all clients and competitors with respect, motivated primarily by a desire to give something to the game. We constantly strive to follow his example to this day."


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