The walking headline that is Sonny Bill Williams is likely to be a big drawcard for Northlanders when his Chiefs side visits Toll Stadium to face the Blues in a pre-season game in January.

While Williams' involvement is yet to be determined, he is likely to appear in some capacity - much to the delight of Northland Rugby Union (NRU) chief executive Jeremy Parkinson.

The fixture on January 29 is a return of the more traditional relationship between Northland and the Blues, which previously saw a pre-season game pretty much a guarantee for the region.

Parkinson was pleased to have the match confirmed, and even more stoked to have a player with the pulling power of Williams involved.


"Sonny Bill Williams is coming to town and all the Blues' All Blacks will be in town also, so that'll be a good opportunity to come watch some early season rugby at 7pm on a summer evening.

"While Sonny Bill and the Blues' All Blacks will be there on game day, we are unsure of what capacity they'll be playing. But, we're hugely excited in any case," Parkinson told the Advocate.

Earlier this year the Blues played a Northland Barbarians team which was dubbed a success after several local players were given an opportunity to test themselves against their big city opposites.

The Barbarians clash could be accredited towards helping the Taniwha to such a successful season - which saw them make the Championship semifinal.

Northland coach Derren Witcombe said at the time how great of an opportunity it was to showcase the region's talent while also introducing a high standard of rugby early in the representative season for the Taniwha.

When asked what the NRU would prefer, a Barbarians match or a pre-season fixture, Parkinson was caught in two minds.

"There are arguments for and against but with Sonny Bill Williams being the main drawcard for the Chiefs, that's a big thing for us," he said. "[The pre-season] format has worked really well and last time they played we played the Waratahs and had a good crowd turnout. Probably we'd take the pre-season game with the rock stars and the All Blacks, it's good to test local boys against the franchise but it's a good time of the year and good weather so we're very pleased."

If Williams does appear in a playing capacity, it won't be his first time having played at Toll Stadium after he made his rugby debut for Canterbury against Northland in 2010 - proving pretty flash on the field as he had a hand in all three of Canterbury's tries.

Parkinson hoped Northlanders would continue to support rugby in the region after such a successful ITM Cup season, something he said showed through the crowd numbers.

Of particular excitement for Northland rugby fans will be the prospect of seeing Blues recruit, and the Taniwha's starting hooker, Matt Moulds wearing a Blues jumper on his home track.

When the Blues last played a pre-season fixture at Toll Stadium in 2013, former Taniwha and All Black Rene Ranger was also the only Northlander playing for the Blues. Around 4000 turned out to support Ranger and his teammates in their match against the Waratahs, with Ranger saying the rarity of the event was something to be savoured. "It's good to get the fans up north to come support the Blues," Ranger said after the 40-36 win. "You know, we don't get many games up here, so when we're here it's good to make it count."

Parkinson hoped Northlanders would pack a picnic and get down to Toll Stadium for the 7pm kick-off on Thursday, January 29.

Tickets for the event range between $6 and $20 and are available from the NRU office on Kioreroa Rd.