New Zealand veteran Benji Marshall has labelled Jason Taumalolo disrespectful after the NRL superstar's defection to Tonga for the World Cup.
But Tonga coach Kristian Woolf believes the "brave" Taumalolo has laid a platform for players putting their allegiances ahead of money.
Powerhouse lock Taumalolo dealt New Zealand's World Cup hopes a massive blow when he confirmed on Wednesday that he would represent Mate Ma'a rather than the side he's played his past 10 Tests for.
It prompted a scathing response from Marshall, a veteran of 27 Tests for the Kiwis.
"It's just a bit disrespectful to the jersey when you've been part of the team for a certain amount of time," playmaker Marshall told Radio Sport NZ.
"If you really think that, the decision could have been made seven or eight weeks ago."
Taumalolo will sacrifice tens of thousands of dollars for his decision.
While that may be a drop in the ocean for someone who's renumerated accordingly as one of the world's best forwards, Woolf said choosing Tonga would have been difficult.
"He's obviously sacrificing a lot," Australian coach Woolf told the NRL website.
"You're not comparing apples with apples when you're talking about the benefits of playing for a tier-one nation compared to a tier-two nation.
"One group of nations are looked after a hell of a lot better than the other."
Kiwi players can earn $50,000 for winning the World Cup, compared to the $3000 playing for a Tongan side Woolf is hoping will reach the quarter-finals.
In a statement on Wednesday, 2016 Dally M Medal winner Taumalolo justified his decision by declaring his wish to develop rugby league in the Polynesian nation.
The North Queensland star hoped to continue playing for both countries in the future.
Woolf said Taumalolo's decision would influence others as several New Zealand-eligible players -- Konrad Hurrell, Tui Lolohea, Solomone Kata, Manu Ma'u and David Fusitu'a -- were named for Tonga on Thursday.
"That's why I think it is such a brave step, him being the first to really do that and lay a platform; to say that it is OK to sacrifice other things and play for a team that in your heart you know you want to play for," Woolf said.