Rhino began life in the late 1970s by Tim Francis before officially being founded in 1980. In its early stages, Tim was a schoolmaster at Dulwich College, who in his spare time developed and built the Powerhouse scrum machine which went on to become the world’s first mass-produced product of this kind.
After a spell successfully promoting the product in South Africa it took off in the UK and worldwide in the early 1980s, with the England squad first using the Powerhouse during the 1981 5 Nations championship. The first major breakthrough for the machine was its use and championing by the 1984 ‘Grand Slam’ Wallaby touring side, and it was supplied by the company, then called Rhino Rugby, alongside other training equipment and pitch kits to the 1991 and 1995 Rugby World Cups in England and South Africa.
Francis was joined in the business by his brother-in-law Derek de Glanville, father of future Bath and England captain Phil, and from the beginning had the support and advice of Rosslyn Park captain Phil Keith-Roach, who went on to become England’s first full-time scrum coach – including for the winning 2003 Rugby World Cup squad.
In 1988 Andy Ripley of Rosslyn Park, England and the Lions and current group CEO Reg Clark organised a Business Expansion Scheme share issue for the company with both investing substantially in the business. For the next 18 years Ripley was Chairman.
With its UK headquarters now in Cardiff, Rhino has branched out within rugby, including balls, and through its multi-sport teamwear activities particularly in universities, the group also acquired the renowned Powa Products International Ltd of New Zealand in 2012.
Rhino has been Official Supplier of scrummaging machines to England since 1984, and is currently Official Supplier of training equipment also to the national unions of France, Wales, Uruguay and Hong Kong. It has occupied that role in the past with South Africa, USA, Japan and Singapore.
Rhino’s rugby ball credits currently include being Official Supplier to the Rugby Europe and Asia Rugby divisions of World Rugby (totalling 80 nations). In the past it was Official Ball Supplier to the Guinness PRO12 for six seasons, and in rugby league the European Super League and RFL Challenge Cup for 6 seasons. It is also currently Official Ball Supplier to Major League Rugby in the USA, Global Rapid Rugby in Oceania and Sudamérica Rugby (South America).