Sonny Bill lining up Benji

Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall. Photos / Jun Tsukida/Matt Roberts
Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall. Photos / Jun Tsukida/Matt Roberts

Sonny Bill Williams is being lined up to make his return to rugby league in a high-profile game in this country early next year.

The Sydney Roosters recruit will face another big-name Kiwi sportsman - Benji Marshall and his Tigers - in his first game back in the 13-man code if promoters get their way.

A Roosters-Tigers clash in the National Rugby League's pre-season Foundation Cup is being planned at a yet-to-be-decided New Zealand venue in March.

Williams quit his highly successful stint in New Zealand rugby a couple of months back and is currently on contract with a Japanese club.

But he has committed to a handshake deal to the Bondi club next year.

"There has been a proposal put to us to bring the team down for our traditional Foundation Cup clash with the Roosters," said a Tigers' spokesman. "If everything comes together, it would be a great opportunity to bring Benji up against Sonny Bill in New Zealand and it would be a hell of a showpiece."

The attraction for both Australian teams coming to these shores would be the bottom line - crowds for the fixture in Sydney have been falling, and only 7000 attended last year.

But the match would attract a bumper gate in New Zealand if it featured the two marque names and was Williams' first game back in league.

"These days the reality is you don't want to put your talent out for pennies," says the Tigers' official. "In the past a trial was just that; a chance for your team to have a run under match conditions and try out some new combinations. Now there is a definite financial and marketing element to it."

Marshall and Williams have played together once for the Kiwis, in the 2006 Anzac test.

- Herald on Sunday

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