Kiwis selector Tawera Nikau is unsure if Tongan World Cup defector Jason Taumalolo could ever play for New Zealand again - but believes loyalty should be shown to players that are committed to the black and white jersey.
Taumalolo threw the Kiwis World Cup plans into disarray earlier this week, when he made the shock announcement to play for Tonga - together with David Fusitu'a, Manu Ma'u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho - rather than New Zealand at the upcoming tournament.
Melbourne Storm premiership winner Kenny Bromwich, West Tigers back-rower Elijah Taylor and Sydney Roosters front-rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were initially overlooked but answered an S.O.S call at the 11th hour before the Kiwis 24-man squad was officially announced yesterday.
Nikau stopped short of saying the door would be closed to Taumalolo when future Kiwis sides are picked but, as tempting as it might be to give the world's best forward another shot, believes selectors need to stay loyal to players that are fully invested in the New Zealand cause.
"Those will be tough decisions that we've got to make and discussions that we've got to have once we get to that position," said Nikau.
"But if you're picking players for this World Cup, you've got to show a bit of loyalty to those guys that have put their hand up and said they want to be playing.
"Those are the discussions that the selectors will have when it gets to the time but if you're looking at players that have said 'yep, I want to be a part of this' that are 100 per cent committed to the black jersey, that are respecting the jersey, and all those that have gone before them, you'd certainly take that into consideration.
"When you look at the guys that you really want in the team, it's those guys that are going to do the hard yards when the going does get tough, you want them to be there."
Taumalolo's absence will also impact on Kiwis coach David Kidwell's attacking plans for the five-week tournament.
Together with Kiwis technical analyst and former veteran NRL coach, Brian Smith, Kidwell devised a plan which was set to rely heavily on the power running and second-phase off-loading strengths of Taumalolo.
The onus will now fall on captain Adam Blair and fellow ball-playing middle forwards Martin Taupau, Joseph Tapine, Waerea-Hargreaves and Kiwis debutant Nelson Asofa-Solomona to pick up the slack and generate attacking opportunities for halves Shaun Johnson and Te Maire Martin and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
"We're going to be working on that," said Kidwell.
"I've been working closely with Brian Smith over the last three months.
"It won't change our style. There will just be different personnel in there using that style that we're going to play."
In the wake of the mass exodus of players, the New Zealand Rugby League are preparing to lobby the International Rugby League Federation to tighten laws around players changing allegiances so close to a World Cup.
"The International Rugby League Federation has to have a look at the rules around the eligibility during the World Cup's and flip-flopping," said Nikau.
"Whether you just change once and that's it, you've got to play for Tonga for the rest of your career, then that's it you've got to play for Tonga, or you're going to play for Samoa.
"In the past you've been able to change, so I'm sure that will be on the agenda for the Rugby League International Federation later at the end of the tournament."