All Blacks legend Wayne "Buck" Shelford opened up about his battle with cancer and urged more young men to get themselves checked.

Considered one of the greatest players of all time, Shelford was part of the New Zealand side that won the 1987 inaugural World Cup before being named captain the following year to lead the All Blacks to a 14-game unbeaten run.

Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2007, a cancer that attacks the lymph nodes while weakening the immune system, Shelford's life was turned upside down.

After six months of intensive chemotherapy, Shelford made a full recovery but was warned of the high chances that his cancer would likely return.

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Wayne Shelford led the All Blacks on an unbeaten run between 1987 to 1990. Photo / Getty
Wayne Shelford led the All Blacks on an unbeaten run between 1987 to 1990. Photo / Getty

Shelford, who has since become a prostate cancer ambassador and is often called on as a spokesperson for men's health issues, said his experience made him realise how quickly the life-threatening disease could hit and urged more young people to get themselves checked.

"We have to be mindful that a lot of our men folk don't go to the doctor after they leave high school and our young men especially, they're bulletproof," Shelford said.

"When I had my cancer I was still running around doing my thing as a coach and then all of a sudden I had a weeping eye and that's where I found my cancer, in the back of my eye."

"It's about teaching our young men to check yourselves... we just don't know when one of these cancers could knock us down, we just don't know."

Just last year, Shelford offered his support to a Palmerston North cancer awareness campaign the "Team George" cancer awareness push. The campaign raised funds for the Arohanui Hospice, the NZ Prostate Cancer Foundation, Addis House and the Manawatu Cancer Society in memory of Palmerston North Kia Toa rugby stalwart George Ponga.

Shelford said he wanted to continue his work in educating people about cancer and hoped his message would help raise awareness, particularly among young Kiwi men.

"As we get older we're all gonna be part of that group that some of us will get it and some of us won't but we will probably all die with it inside our prostate anyway," he said.

"The more you look after yourself in your mid-life to older life, the better lifestyle you'll have as an older person."

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"If I go to a group of 14-15 men, I'd like to hear these men say 'hey mate I've learnt so much off you today, I'm going to the doctor now' and that's all you need."