The Fijian rugby disgrace might be coming to an end

The sight of the Fijian Drua absolutely cutting the Perth Spirit to shreds in front of a wonderful crowd in Suva in this weekend's NRC game warmed the heart.

The home side had it all. Pace, offloads, long-range tries and second-rowers running perfect lines onto pop passes. The Fijians were physical, intelligent and well organised.

This remember, is a country that has lost its players to all corners of the world.

Famously on one weekend last November five teams named Fijian wings in their 23-man squads and only one was Fiji. The other parties were England, France, Australia and New Zealand.

So the depth is astonishing. For some of the Drua's tries it looked as if the Perth side - the reigning NRC champions who are replete with Super Rugby players - were on the verge of applause, because they had fired plenty of shots themselves.

The only conclusion that could be made is that a disgrace in rugby's history - and it is a disgrace - might be about to end. Fiji is moving towards a professional team. It is banging on the door of Super Rugby when the competition is reconfigured again in 2020.

That is the beauty of the Drua's entry into the NRC this year. It has started something that will be hard to stop.

Already momentum had been built by Fiji's successful staging of Super Rugby games between the Chiefs and Crusaders over the past two seasons, but the Drua are something else.

Seeing them play is a reminder of why we watch the game: it's not just the skills and rugby intellect of the players, it's the sense that they are in it for something bigger than themselves.

I still have my fears. Even though World Rugby is behind this project, what is to stop a French billionaire from raiding the Drua before they can take their place in a professional competition?

Cruelly, the NRC might actually serve as a shop window for Europe's clubs.

I suppose, too, that I have read enough scare stories about governance issues in the islands to cause some anxiety. Certainly the treatment of former Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan after he guided the side to Olympic gold was disappointing.

But hold on, were the Chiefs v Crusaders games not well-staged and run events? They were. In particular the game in May this year was one of the highlights of the regular season. So let us judge by what we are seeing.

And what we are seeing is this: a team that has just entered the NRC is already at the top of the ladder after four games.

The Drua's points differential is +65. The next best is +13. They are not attempting to defend their way to the championship.

It's not just ad hoc brilliance either. Look at the discipline and depth the backline keeps for their first-phase moves. Of course the hard ground in Suva helped their natural game against the Spirit but the structure is there.

Indeed, when the national team beat Scotland in June, the ground was heavy. It is true the Scots were without some of their big guns but they had beaten the Wallabies the week before.

If there was a final reason to get behind the Fijians as they push towards Super Rugby, just look at who scored Perth Spirit's solitary try in Suva.

It was Isi Naisarani, a Fijian back-rower who will probably play for the Wallabies at the next World Cup.

Fiji has done enough for other countries. Now it's time they gave back.

This story The Fijian rugby disgrace might be coming to an end first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.