Mike Cron: The All Blacks 'scrum doctor', the ballet and the endless pursuit of forward perfection

After signing on with New Zealand Rugby through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, Mike Cron has given a glimpse into his world as the All Blacks' scrum guru.

Widely recognised as the greatest scrum technician in world rugby earning him the nickname 'the scrum doctor', by the time Cron's contract expires it will have been six Rugby World Cups he's been involved in, in one capacity or another.

Known for his unparalleled technical nous, the 61-year-old has often turned to unorthodox sports in the endless pursuit of innovation in the forward pack.

"I look at other sports really to try and upskill myself," said Cron.

"In the past I've been to sumo wrestling in Japan or in America, the New York giants, Knicks, Yankees, Pittsburgh Penguins.

"This year I went to the Royal New Zealand ballet for their lifting and I went into cage fighting on the Gold Coast, looking at activities, how to get off the ground quickly, those sort of things.

Mike Cron
Mike Cron at All Blacks training (Getty)

"Every year you have to be better than last year otherwise you shouldn't be here, so that's the first thing."

Known as meticulous and notoriously hard to please, the former police detective has always been a figure of relative mystique, having very little media exposure and happy to let others take the credit for his work.

Despite assisting the All Blacks to two Rugby World Cup winning campaigns, Cron knows his job isn't finished yet as they chase an elusive third straight.

It's a prospect that delights and excites him.

"I think the stimulation is every year we get different players coming in. We've got more and more players coming in through players either going overseas, retirement or selection and that's stimulating in itself.

"Helping those young guys get ready to play international rugby and then helping them through their early stages, it's great."

It's not just innovation that Cron's mastered, helping the forward pack reach a higher fitness level and improved ball handling skills - something he admits has been achieved through refined training practices.

"I always look at training a rugby player like training a race horse, you can't flatten them, you give them one short sharp gallop during the week and then put them out on Saturday, keep them fresh in the mind. I think we do a lot of that sort of work.

Mike Cron
Mike Cron has been a big factor in the All Blacks' success (Getty)

"We demand our forwards have the same skill level as the backs, within reason, and we encourage them to use those skills.

"And also I think our ability to do repeated efforts [has improved], so instead of doing one effort and stopping and having a cup of tea, they now get up get going and get on to the next task, I've seen a huge improvement in that over the years."

While he's extremely excited for a tilt at the Lions this year followed by the World Cup in Japan, that's where he draws the line.

However he does want to hang around.

"If you see me hanging around after that, put a pillow over my head and get rid of me. But I'd like to stay on and help New Zealand Rugby in the role of assisting coaches to get ready to coach at a high level and develop some young coaches so that'd be a role I'd like to do."