TONGA World Cup recruit Jason Taumalolo has refused to denounce reports a falling out with coach David Kidwell was behind the decision to snub the Kiwis.
Taumalolo – rated as the game’s best forward – will play for the Mate Ma’a in the coming tournament after declining the opportunity to add to his 10 Kiwis caps.
At the time his decision was made public, it was claimed Taumalolo was protesting the decision of Kidwell to bad two players – Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor – from RLWC selection because they were caught snorting cocaine after a mid-season international.
In Saturday’s edition of Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, Taumalolo was asked if had an issue with Kidwell.
“I’m sorry, I can’t answer that,” Taumalolo responded.
Asked why he didn’t call Kidwell directly to advise him of his decision, Taumalolo said: “Sorry, I can’t answer that question.”
And asked if he intended to continue playing for New Zealand, he said: “I can’t answer that at the moment, sorry.”
The New Zealand camp believes family played a big role in Taumalolo changing camps, along with Manu Ma’u, David Fusitu’a and Sio Suia Taukiaho.
But Taumalolo appears to reject that narrative when he said: “They were not only surprised, but they were pretty overwhelmed that I made the decision myself.
“They were just as surprised as everyone else was. Having their son represent where they were born is something to be proud of as a parent.”
Asked about calls for him to be banned from Kiwis selection in future, he said: “If they have any ill-feelings towards me or see me as disrespecting the jersey, they’re entitled to their own opinions.
“I have no hard feelings towards them. That’s just the way it is.”
Kiwis captain Adam Blair was critical of Taumalolo in a radio interview on Saturday, telling Newstalk ZB: “”You’ve got to be a man and own up to what you want to do
“If you were man enough, you’d make the phone call and tell them.
“He could have told them a couple of weeks ago because I don’t think it was a last-minute decision.”