The Lions tour opener in Whangarei on June 3 will be the biggest home fixture in the 80-year history of the proud NZ Barbarians club.

While the team should be known as the NZ Barbarians rather than the NZ Provincial Barbarians, there are no qualms about the make-up of the squad, drawn from the top Mitre 10 Cup or fringe Super Rugby talent with Peter Rowe of Wanganui representing the Heartland Championship.

The Barbarians toured the UK in 1987, '96 and 2003, playing England on the last two occasions, but in recent times they have played the Maori All Blacks, in a 2010 thriller in Whangarei, and in 2015 at Eden Park, a fixture they won in something of an upset.

The 2017 team will dine at the Eden Park clubrooms on May 27 before travelling north. If some of the squad's knowledge of the Barbarians and their ethos is hazy now, by the time they ran out onto Toll Stadium in their specially made jerseys, they will know exactly who and what they are playing for.


"It's a great opportunity for this match in Whangarei to set the scene for what should be an enthralling Lions tour," says Barbarians club president and former All Blacks prop Ron Williams. "The game will be a real highlight for our club and it recognises our role in amateur rugby."

Club patron Bryan Williams played many games for and against the Barbarians and is relishing the prospect of the June 3 fixture. He will also enjoy the fact that two MAGS old boys are in the squad, the Northland pair of Josh Goodhue and Matt Matich.

Matich is one of four loose forwards named - there is one to be added - and he brings versatility and work-rate which saw him stand out in 10 games, mostly at No 8, for the Taniwha in 2016. He did play for the Blues at the Brisbane Tens and has also appeared for the Blues A or his Western Sharks club in between his day job as RDO for the Northland union. He feels he may be called upon to help organise some of the community engagement for the Barbarians in Whangarei.

"When I missed out on Super Rugby, I was training pretty hard to get a crack at this," says the 25-year-old, who headed back to his native province in 2015 after several seasons in Auckland, where he was the inaugural John Drake Memorial scholar. Matich played for Auckland in 2014. He is relaxed about where coach Clayton McMillan may use him against the Lions.

"I have played all three positions my whole life, so I'm comfortable playing anywhere, hopefully starting to get some minutes," Matich says.

McMillan likes the mix of his loosies.

"All our loose forwards fit a profile. They are all tough bastards, versatile and will go 80 minutes."

Goodhue is a Blues wider training group lock, and is keen to pack down alongside the Crusaders' No 4 second-row Quinten Strange.

"There's a massive legacy behind this club. I was talking to 'Beegee' before and he was very excited at having an international fixture," says Goodhue, who will play for the Taniwha again in 2017, this time alongside his twin brother Jack, the Crusaders centre.