New Zealand coach David Kidwell has said he received less than 48 hours' notice of lock Jason Taumalolo's World Cup defection to Tonga.
In a massive blow to the Kiwis' tournament hopes, the 24-year-old made himself available for Tonga on Wednesday and was named in their squad on Thursday.
Born in Auckland to Tongan parents, Taumalolo said he snubbed New Zealand for Mate Ma'a to develop league in the Polynesian nation.
Kidwell swore black and blue on Thursday that he was blindsided by Taumalolo's decision, and had expected him to pull on the Kiwis' No.13 jumper.
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Kidwell insisted that he was blindsided by the decision and had expected the North Queensland Cowboys forward to pull on the Kiwis' No.13 jumper.
He has unsuccessfully reached out to the 113kg forward.
Australian media reports suggest Taumalolo turned his back on the Kiwis because of Kidwell's decision to demote Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor after an Anzac Day Test drugs scandal.
Australian media reports suggested Taumalolo turned his back on the Kiwis because of Kidwell's decision to demote Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor after an Anzac Day Test drugs scandal.
Kidwell dead-batted those allegations.
"We've made a number of phone calls, emails and texts - you'll have to have a conversation with Jason there," Kidwell told reporters.
"I respect his decision but a conversation would've been good.
"Everyone's going to have their own opinion (on Bromwich and Proctor). We're trying to build a new Kiwis spirit here and we're not going to condone that behaviour."
Kiwis selector Tawera Nikau said Taumalolo may return to the fold post-Cup.
"We've never shut the door on any players in the past," Nikau said.
Kidwell suggested that Melbourne Storm's Kenny Bromwich - brother of Jesse - and Joseph Tapine would partner stalwart Simon Mannering in the back row.
Manu Ma'u, David Fusitu'a and Tuimoala Lolohea have also elected to play for Tonga over the Kiwis.
Kidwell said he'd received a little more notice from those players and didn't consider any of them as central to his plans.
Elsewhere, Issac Luke has been dumped after a mediocre season with the Warriors, usurped by Newcastle Knights hooker Danny Levi.
Kidwell has named five uncapped players in Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Addin Fonua-Blake, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu and Brad Takairangi.
New Zealand play their first match of the tournament against Samoa in Auckland on October 28 with arriors-bound forward Adam Blair to captain the side.
New Zealand squad: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Gerard Beale, Adam Blair (capt), Kenny Bromwich, Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu, Simon Mannering, Te Maire Martin, Jason Nightingale, Kodi Nikorima, Russell Packer, Jordan Rapana, Brad Takairangi, Joseph Tapine, Martin Taupau, Elijah Taylor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare.
Tonga squad: Andrew Fifita, Mahe Fonua, David Fusitu’a, Siliva Havilli, Ata Hingano, Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Jennings, Solomone Kata, Sione Katoa, Samisoni Langi, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sika Manu, Manu Ma'u, Sam Moa, Ben Murdoch Masila, Joe Ofahengaue, Tevita Pangai jnr, Ukuma Ta'ai, Sio Siua Taukieaho, Jason Taumalolo, Peni Terepo, Daniel Tupou, Manu Vatuvei