10 Sep 2015

Is this man our most devoted rugby fan?

5:08 pm on 10 September 2015

In just over a week the Rugby World Cup kicks off in the UK and more than 4000 New Zealanders are preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

Following rugby has taken Russell Lilley to 58 countries, and to to every world cup since 1987.

Russell Lilley

Russell Lilley has been to every world cup since 1987. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

"Oh the stories I could tell you, following rugby has led to some of the best times of my life."

The 65-year-old is a hard working business owner and said rugby to him was like a disease.

"I just love it, the atmosphere you get from being at a game is unbelievable, sitting in a crowd between a bunch of Australians and English supporters it doesn't get much better than that.

"You stand in stadiums and through certain parts like the national anthem or when something happens during a game tears start flowing down your checks and you don't even know why, the atmosphere is unbelievable, it is something you have to experience to understand," Mr Lilley said.

Mr Lilley has all the essentials ready for the 2015 World Cup.

"I've got a new 2015 All Blacks t-shirt I'm taking with me, and new All Blacks toilet bag, believe it or not I even wear All Blacks underpants."

Heading over for the semi-finals and the final Mr Lilley said it has the potential to be the best cup yet.

"I think we can win it, the All Blacks are playing some really good rugby, there are a few players I wouldn't have picked, but that is just a personal opinion, I think when they start playing through the game plays I don't think they will go far wrong."

Looking through items he has collected over the years a smile widens across his face.

"Old Grizz Willey signed this for me, its a prayer book, on one tour I went on for some reason I was given the task of saying the Sunday prayers, I'm not even a religious man but I became Father Lilley."

Following rugby has taken him to over 58 countries and put him in some interesting situations.

"Some things cannot be repeated, but obviously travelling through Africa was interesting for some matches I went to there were armed body guards checking everyone who went through the gate."

He is a founding member of the Canterbury Supporters club and established the Rolleston Rugby Club

Russell Lilley

Following rugby has taken Russell Lilley to 58 different countries. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

"I own the local pub so I've had Richie and the boys come in for meals a few times," Mr Lilley said.

Sam Hawke, 23, from Dunedin is also making the trip to the world cup, but he was taking a more relaxed approach.

"I have one ticket for a semi-final for the rest of it, my plan is to park up at a pub somewhere, meet some fellow Kiwis and have a good time."

Mr Hawke said the atmosphere in New Zealand during the last world cup was incredible, and was something he wanted to experience again.

"It's not so much about going to the games, it is about being around other fans and experiencing the moment and that buzz that rugby brings to a lot of people."

Fan favourite All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

Fan favourite All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo: Photosport

All Blacks Tours general manager David Caldwell said experiencing a Rugby World Cup was the pinnacle for any All Blacks supporter.

"The oldest fan we have travelling is 87 and the youngest is just five years old."

It is estimated New Zealand fans will travel a combined 17 million kilometres and consume some 29,344 English breakfasts.

The All Blacks first game is against Argentina at Wembley Stadium on 20 September.