Kiwis coach David Kidwell says he respects Jason Taumalolo's decision to play for Tonga at the upcoming World Cup but is disappointed he hasn't been able to speak to him about his decision to turn his back on New Zealand.
Taumalolo yesterday made the stunning announcement he was abandoning the Kiwis World Cup campaign to take up an opportunity to play for Tonga - the side he represented at the 2013 tournament.
Kidwell confirmed at today's Kiwis team announcement he had made numerous attempts to contact the North Queensland lock but said his calls had so far gone unanswered.
"I haven't had a conversation with Jason face to face or on the phone. That's the most disappointing thing.
"I respect his decision but a conversation between myself and him would have been a good thing to do.
"It's Jason's decision and that's entirely up to him and we respect that decision.
"But we've got to focus on the guys who have put their hand up and want to play in the jersey."
Kiwis captain Adam Blair was unable to attend the press conference but said via telephone link that he was surprised and disappointed by Taumalolo's shock switch of allegiance.
"It's disappointing for me but he's in his own right to do what he wants," said Blair.
Kiwis selector Tawera Nikau says the door is not shut on Taumalolo returning to the Kiwis team after this campaign.
"We've never shut the door on any other players in the past. Obviously it's going to be assessed after the World Cup."
Taumalolo was not the only major player missing from the squad, with five debutants named as a result.
Melbourne premiership winner Tohu Harris will miss the tournament due to injury, which also followed confirmation last week that Kieran Foran had also withdrawn from the tournament to focus recovering from an injury-riddled season.
Harris struggled to overcome shoulder and foot injuries that dogged him throughout the year, thus being unavailable, while in another shock, veteran hooker Issac Luke has been dumped after a poor NRL season for the Warriors.
As a result, there are several new faces in the squad. Nelson Asofa-Solomona will debut, as will Addin Fonua-Blake, Danny Levi, Isaac Liu and Brad Takairangi.
The 2008 World Cup champions open the tournament against Samoa on October 28.
Kiws squad: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Kenny Bromwich, Addin Fonua-Blake, Peta Hiku, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuliuai, 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.