In losing to Australia in their inaugural test in Adelaide, the Pacific Islanders made an impression both for the quality of their play and the thunderous nature of their hits. While the Aussies scored 5 tries to 2, the game was closer than the 29-14 scoreline suggests.
Playing perhaps for the future of the professional game in the Islands, the composite team made up of players from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, forced Joe Roff, George Gregan, Stirling Mortlock and Clyde Rathbone off the pitch with their heavy tackling.
If the Australian test reminded us of the carnage that can be wreaked by their controversial tackling style, the New Zealand match underlined all that was best about island rugby. Despite losing 41-26, the Islanders covered themselves in glory. The ball was moved with a fluency that surprised even the Blacks and mmost of the 'oohs' and 'aahs' were for their sublime skills, including one try where lock Ifereimi Rawaga's delicate and perfect chip created a try for winger Sivivatu.
Graham Henry (who had been approached by the Pacific Islanders last year to coach them) reckons that the PI team is a wonderful concept and likens them to the British and Irish Lions.
The Pacific Islands Rugby Association was formed last year to represent the interests of the Pacific Islanders. They have recently made a case for the Super 12 to become a Super 14 with a Pacific Islands team to be added alongside an Australian team. They have even said that they would forego their share of the TV revenues, relying only on gate money.
Despite this, it appears unlikely that they will be able to edge their way onto the table, as the economics of TV production will still go against them and the TriNation superpowers don't seem imbued with a sense of solidarity for a region that continues to provide the Anzacs in particular with players. A feature of the TV coverage in New Zealand was that the commentators wondered aloud which players would make good All Blacks.
But for the time being it appears that this side will be more of a British and Irish Lions touring side than a fully-fledged member of the international rugby calendar.