-IAIN PAYTEN, The Daily Telegraph

AUSTRALIAN rugby has fought off keen interest from New Zealand to secure the highly regarded Simon Cron as the new head coach of Australia’s under-20s team.

Cron, who steered Norths to their first Shute Shield triumph in 41 years in 2016, will take over the key coaching role from Adrian Thompson and lead Aussie rugby’s best juniors to the under-20s World Championships in Georgia next June.

The 40-year-old is a rising star of the Australian coaching scene, following his Norths success and then lifting the Sydney Rays up into the NRC semi-finals.

Cron’s reputation and achievements not only put him on the radar of Australian Super Rugby sides, but as a Kiwi and nephew of All Blacks scrum coach Mike Cron, the first phone calls actually came from across the ditch.

“Funnily enough early on, there was some interested calls from New Zealand,” Cron said. “They were quite quick to see if I would head back there. I was surprised how quick they were given I have been in Australia for ten years and I didn’t really know they were watching over here.”

“It was flattering and it was nice, because they’re good people. But it didn’t really hold allure for me at all.

“My wife Amy and I are settled now, our kids are getting towards school age and to be honest I feel like there is a lot we can do here (in Australia), in rugby. I see massive upside in Australian rugby. I think there is huge potential for the game.”

Cron accepted the role of Australian under-20s coach, which he will juggle while also coaching Norths next year. He’ll be assisted by premiership-winning Brothers coach Carl Marshall and former Wallaby Nic Henderson.

Cron says he’ll apply all the same philosophies — developing a high skill game, a culture of constant improvement and no tolerance for mediocrity — and he believes the Aussie under-20s can turn around years of poor results at the world champs.

Australia has only made the final once in nine years, and they got pumped by New Zealand.

‘My approach is pretty simple: I won’t be heading to Georgia with thoughts of getting second,” Cron said. “There are some great rugby players in Australia so I reckon we will go at it, we will have a good crack.

“I played in New Zealand but I have only coached Australians. I couldn’t ask for better guys to coach. But we have to teach them to be successful at an under 20s age if we expect to win above that. We have to coach them to be winners now.

“If you look at a lot of the successful programs, look back at the 20s program they’ve come out of and it’s usually a pretty successful one. New Zealand and England have dominated recently. So we have to get to that stage again.”

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