Kiwis boss David Kidwell insists he received fewer than 48 hours' notice of star lock Jason Taumalolo's World Cup defection to Tonga.
In a bitter blow to New Zealand's Cup hopes and a repudiation of Kidwell's culture-centric Kiwis vision, the 24-year-old wrecking ball and 2016 Dally M winner made himself available for Tonga, the nation of his ancestry, on Wednesday.
Born in Auckland to Tongan parents, the Cowboys-based 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.
He has unsuccessfully reached out to the 113kg forward.
Yet the issue appears to have been bubbling away for some time, with Australian media reports suggesting Taumalolo turned his back on Kidwell's Kiwis because of his decision to demote Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor after the Anzac Day Test.
The pair, both senior Kiwis, were seen snorting a substance thought to be cocaine after their side's 30-12 demolition at the hands of Australia in May.
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."
Melbourne-based back-rower Kenny Bromwich has been chosen as a last-minute replacement for Taumalolo, fresh off his side's NRL Premiership win.
Kidwell suggested that Bromwich - brother of Jesse - and Joseph Tapine would likely partner stalwart Simon Mannering in the Kiwis' back-row.
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.
A host of other players in the wider Kiwis' squad, including Manu Ma'u, David Fusitu'a and Tuimoala Lolohea, have also elected to represent Tonga.
Kidwell said he'd received a little more notice from those players, and didn't consider any of them - barring Taumalolo - central to his plans.
Elsewhere, Issac Luke has been officially dumped for the Cup campaign after a mediocre season with the Warriors, usurped by the Knights-based Danny Levi.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has eked into the squad at the last minute after a solid campaign with the Roosters, and may slot straight into the starting side.
Kidwell has named five potential debutants in Storm powerhouse Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Addin Fonua-Blake, Levi, Isaac Liu and Brad Takairangi.
They'll kick off their campaign against Samoa in Auckland on October 28, before pool matches against Scotland and Taumalolo's Tonga.
Warriors-bound prop Adam Blair will captain the side.
KIWIS: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Gerard Beale, Adam Blair (c), 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 Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare.