A bear attacked their tent in Romania, they still can't feel their toes after suffering frostbite and they're on a budget of $10 a day. But rugby fanatics and long-distance cyclists Tom Hudson and Jodie Burton wouldn't have it any other way.

The two Londoners are determined to pedal their way to the Rugby World Cup and to raise £1 ($2) for every kilometre they travel - that's £28,000 ($57,780) they aim to raise for charity.

Last year Hudson and Burton, both 29, became disillusioned with life as financial bankers in the City of London, and decided to opt for adventure. Their initial plan was to emigrate to Melbourne and they thought they would cycle there after reading The Crossing, the story of Ben Fogle and James Cracknell rowing across the Atlantic.

But that plan morphed into something much bigger. Now it has become a personal quest to spread the rugby gospel and to raise the £28,000 for Rays of Sunshine and Tag Rugby Trust, which work with children. They are some way short of their target but hope to gain momentum once they hit Australia and New Zealand, where rugby is a more common currency.

The couple set off from London on May 1, their bikes laden with supplies, clothing and camping gear. If all goes to plan, they hope to cycle down Auckland's Sandringham Rd to Eden Park on Sunday, October 23, in time for the Rugby World Cup final, having cycled 28,000km.

They don't have a ticket for the game but will be outside Eden Park nonetheless.

Their journey to Auckland will take them through 28 countries, including Slovakia, Serbia and South Korea, Iran, Vietnam and Cambodia. Most are largely non-rugby playing - only England, France, Romania, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will feature at the World Cup - which has made their quest to spread the word on rugby a difficult one.

Their inability to speak Mandarin or Malay hasn't made spreading the message any easier.

"We don't really travel with maps so it's hard to show people what we are doing, where we have come from or where we are going," says Hudson, on the phone from China. "Sometimes we have drawn sketches but often people are quite confused.

"People from non-rugby countries confuse rugby with American football.

"Because American football is seen as violent, there are religious and social issues to convince governments and ministers that this is what the kids of the next generation should be playing.

"We thought if we can raise the profile of the sport in countries where it's not prolific, it might help to gain some exposure for their causes. It's been interesting."

Hudson and Burton will talk to anyone who will listen, although when a bear attacked their tent in Romania the terrified couple stayed hidden from view.

It's tough and lonely going through sometimes brutal terrain. The pair have emerged from three months cycling across China, where temperatures sometimes plummeted to minus 25C and they could go days with barely any other human contact.

In one stretch, they cycled for 15 days to get to the next town with only a rugby ball they call Gilbert for company. "We live off really simple stuff," Hudson says, "and there are many times when we have wondered what on Earth we are doing. Over the past three months [through China] there has not been a single, enjoyable day of cycling. It's been freezing cold and we are on a very tight budget of around $10 a day between us for everything.

"We are living on heated noodles, sleeping in a ditch or a farmer's field somewhere. We don't have any language, so we just hide. It's stealth cycling, really.

"We've got frostbitten toes. We still have no feeling in our feet from the last couple of months. Hopefully there will be no long-term damage but apparently it can take months to get full feeling back."

Hudson and Burton are writing a book about their journey and hope to have memorabilia they collect exhibited at the rugby museum in Palmerston North.

Along the way they are working on a scroll, called The World in Union, which has long been rugby's slogan for the World Cup. They're collecting signatures of rugby personalities they meet and have rugby identities such as Steve Borthwick (former England captain), John Kirwan (former World Cup-winning All Black and now Japan coach) and Eddie Jones (former Australia coach and South Africa assistant coach).

And there are the little-known rugby identities such as the carpet manufacturer who used to prop for Pakistan or the ice-cream salesman who played for Iran. One, who goes by the name Rambo, was the first Chinese-born player to represent Hong Kong and now works for the IRB as a coach.

"We want to present the scroll to the organisers of the Rugby World Cup as a gesture to show the whole world is watching," Hudson says. "It's the real message behind what we're doing.

"We try to make contact with people before we get there. It's like a full-time job. We spend equal time pedalling and organising, begging people for contacts. We're trying to work with the Rugby Football Union and International Rugby Board and we're working with many national unions." "

Hudson and Burton are members of Foots Cray, a club in southeast London, and Hudson played rugby from an early age. Cycling was never their sport - until now. Allocating nearly 18 months to get from England to New Zealand sounds like ample time but the pair are on a strict schedule of roughly 450km-500km a week. That will need to be closer to 600km a week when they hit Australia.

"We had never really cycled before. We just thought it was a good tool to experience the countries en route rather than just turn up to cities and see statues. Right now we just want to get into Southeast Asia to get warm again. The real reason we probably haven't chucked it in is that we have been stuck in the middle of a desert and there hasn't been any opportunity."

The people they have met have kept them going. Hudson was roped into a couple of rugby training sessions in Pakistan and Turkey, and tossed a ball around in Iran, but fears his fragile cycling body might break now if he participated in anything more strenuous.

He went from 95kg to about 70kg in the first three weeks before it stabilised to about 80kg. With so much cycling still to do, neither can afford to get injured. They have also secured a decent following, regularly updating their website with blogs, photos and pleas for donations to their charities.

In the final part of their trek they will cycle from Invercargill to Auckland and hope to time it with a handful of World Cup games.

For most rugby fans, the end result will be the most significant outcome of the World Cup and whether New Zealand can win their second title.

But for two rugby missionaries that will almost be secondary. It will be the getting there that counts.

www.cyclingtotherugbyworldcup.com