North Queensland superstar Jason Taumalolo has spoken out about his shock decision to choose Tonga over New Zealand for the upcoming rugby league World Cup.
Taumalolo released a statement this afternoon saying he made the decision to help the Tongan World Cup campaign and the development of rugby league in the country.
"I really enjoyed my time within the Tongan World Cup Squad last time and have had a long time association with Tongan Coach Kristian Woolf," said Taumalolo.
"I just feel it's time to give back and hopefully I can assist and inspire young Tongan players to chase their NRL goals.
"I see with the new international rule change an opportunity to represent both Tonga and NZ throughout my career, I have and will always be proud to wear the Kiwis Jersey. I just feel the World Cup provides developing nations like Tonga and opportunity to play on the big stage and I would like to help them with their campaign."
Taumalolo's withdrawal has rocked the Kiwis' preparation following news today that Melbourne premiership winner Tohu Harris will miss the tournament due to injury, following confirmation last week that Kieran Foran had also withdrawn from the tournament to focus recovering from an injury-riddled season.
New Zealand play Tonga on November 11 at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, which will pit Taumalolo against his former Kiwi teammates.
The 2016 Dally M Medallist has been unstoppable for the Cowboys this year, running more than 5000m this season.