Some Kiwis will never see a Rugby World Cup game in their lifetime, but Whanganui man Bernie Owen has been to seven of nine tournaments.

The 84-year-old has just returned from his first trip to Japan where he attended six round robin matches, including all three All Blacks tests.

Owen went to games in '87 in New Zealand, '95 in South Africa, '99 in England and Wales, '03 in Australia, '11 in New Zealand and '15 in England.

The only reason he missed the 1991 and 2007 tournaments was because he could not get the time off from work. Owen was a prison officer at Kaitoke for 30 years.


Owen went to Japan with his sons Craig, Donald and Scott Owen, as well as his grandson Rikki Owen and good mate John Walker.

He said the hill scenery in Japan reminded him a lot of home.

"I was brought up during the war years. I was 11 at the end of the war and lots of things were said about the Japanese," Owen said.

"But they're brilliant people, I really loved them. It was a great experience. When you're travelling in Japan you see high-rise buildings for miles and miles and miles."

The first game the group attended was the All Blacks 23-13 win over South Africa at International Stadium Yokohama.

Owen said it was "bloody disgusting" when the South African fans chanted over the men in black as they performed the haka.

He has seen his fair share of controversy, having been in South Africa with his wife Janet in 1995 when the infamous alleged food poisoning incident occurred.

"Before the final, Andy Leslie was our tour guide, he got on the bus and said 'I'm sorry to tell you, the All Blacks are suffering from food poisoning or something'.


"We knew that the poor buggers were going to struggle and then of course Mehrts could have won the game with a drop-kick, but he missed."

The All Blacks lost the final 15-12 in extra time at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, but the tournament provided Owen with a special memory of his favourite player.

Owen watched as Jonah Lomu bunted off England's Underwood, Carling and Catt to score the legendary try that left Kiwi commentator Keith Quinn lost for words.

At the time 20, Lomu ran wild against England, scoring four tries and helping the All Blacks to a 45-29 semifinal win in Cape Town.

Owen said his favourite game of this year's tournament so far was the All Blacks match against Namibia.

"The second half with Perenara's try was pretty awesome to watch. It was one of the best you'd want to see, that's for sure," he says.

"I'd love to see a New Zealand/Japan final, that would be huge for rugby over there, but it could be South Africa again. That may be a bit easy for us though."

Although Owen gets short of breath at times, and his sons organised a wheelchair for him this time around, he still got a lot done in Japan.

He was wowed by busy railway stations, visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and even learned a bit about the culture when he was told off for eating his icecream outside.

But can he do it again? Will he make it to number eight?

"I've been to France, but never to see a rugby game, so that would be really interesting," Owen says.

"I'm hopeful that I can go to the next World Cup, how about that? As my son said 'you'll only be 89, so there's no reason why you shouldn't be there'".