FOUR years of cloak-and-dagger activity around a garden shed in Walkerburn have came to fruition for Borders rugby coach Richie Gray.
For this week the 41-year-old from Galashiels has launched a revolutionary aid to rugby training aimed at making the sport more dynamic at every level.
Appropriately named ‘The Collision King’, the invention already has the local and national rugby world sitting up and taking notice. And, having just signed a 10-year contract – for an undisclosed sum – with global sports equipment manufacturers Rhino, Gray is looking at major sales of his brainchild ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup.
With 35 of the machines, which retail around £2,000, already in circulation, orders are rolling in with England manager Martin Johnson and Scotland’s Andy Robinson at the head of the queue. After working in secret for the past four years, along with local company DCB Welding and backing from Scottish Enterprise, Gray is delighted that his project is now getting of the ground at last.
He told TheSouthern: “It’s been an absolute nightmare trying to keep this under wraps.
“We have been sneaking in and out of a shed in Walkerburn, and had to turn the machine on its side and cover it with a sheet so that it just looked like some sort of ramp to anyone looking in. Anyone who did see it had to sign disclosure documents to ensure everything was kept hush-hush.
“It was more or less finished by this time last year, but then it took another year to get all the legal stuff and patenting challenges sorted out. It’s been worth it though – the whole experience has been quite phenomenal.”
Over the years Gray has been involved in many aspects of rugby – from player to coach, overseas recruitment and being the force behind Base Rugby Academy. He has also tackled the entertainment side of the game through his successful events company ‘The Bar’.
Explaining this latest turn of thought he told us: “I have been watching the game develop for years and have analysed it to death. While the collisions and rucks are becoming more important they are still not very dynamic.
“On the whole players’ body heights are poor, they’re slow to get off the ground, slow to get into the collision and don’t work hard when they’re in there. So to get to the bottom of it I studied three things – force, angles and patterns – and came up with ‘The Collision King’ concept, a machine that can bring outstanding dynamic body height time and time again, with every angle and centimetre on the machine relevant to create the perfect hit.
“I knew I was onto something just watching the game develop the way I thought it would over the last few years, and to see the reaction of people like Martin Johnson, Andy Robinson, Warren Gatland and Declan Kidney reassured me that it had the potential to make a difference to rugby.”
One of the objectives of Gray’s machine is to create a game with less prolonged stoppages which becomes more exciting for both player and spectator.
Voicing his opinion on the Collision King, Reg Clark, CEO of Rhino, said: “The key to the development of this training aid is that it has been invented by a rugby skills coach with an outstanding knowledge of skill acquisition.
“The brilliance of the Collision King is in its simplicity. It is a machine that every player – back, forward and sevens alike – will benefit from using. In my opinion there has never been a rugby training aid quite like it.
“The Rhino Collision King was only launched two weeks ago and within the history of our company we have never seen interest and demand shown for a product like this. We already have machines with Scotland, England, Wales and Georgia in the training build-up to the Rugby World Cup, in addition to expressions of interest from professional sides from all over the world.”
Jim Telfer, former Scotland and British and Irish Lions player and coach, also believes the machine can bring about the desired technical effects the game has been missing.
He commented: “The Rhino Collision King is an excellent contribution to rugby training technology. It addresses what I believe to be the critical strategic challenge for coaches in the modern game. It is, moreover, something which all players – forwards and backs alike – can benefit from using and it has equal importance to the game of sevens.”