Kiwi centre Steve Matai has ruled himself out of this month's test match against Australia in order to play for the Steve Price-coached Samoa in the World Cup later this year.
Matai informed Kiwi officials of his decision to make himself ineligible for New Zealand last Wednesday and, barring injury, will line up for Samoa against Tonga at Centrebet Stadium on April 20.
''I spoke to the Kiwis on Wednesday and said I was going to make myself available for the Samoan side,'' Matai said.
''I want to play for them at the end of the year. It might be my last World Cup so I want to represent my parents. My parents were born in Samoa. I rang Tony Iro and spoke to him. He said everything is fine and he is happy for me to do that. He said if he was undecided by the end of the year I could talk to him about it.
''I just thought it was a courtesy thing to do. He was happy and very grateful I made the call. The last World Cup I played for the Kiwis, but two years ago I said to Nigel Vagana, who is running it all, I want to play the World Cup for Samoa. He said wait to see how you feel. At the start of the year I made the decision I wanted to play for Samoa.''
Dragons coach Steve Price was on Monday confirmed as coach of Samoa, while Jeff Lima, Roy Asotasi, Junior Sa'u and David Fa'alogo have all also confirmed their allegiance.
Matai's withdrawal from the Kiwi side, as well as Krisnan Inu's pending suspension, has left coach Stephen Kearney with a selection dilemma in the centres.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall is guaranteed to be one centre, but Gerard Beale, Dean Whare, Jerome Ropati and Konrad Hurrell are all fighting out for the one position.
With Sonny Bill Williams returning to the Kiwi side, Kearney could be tempted to shift skipper Simon Mannering to the centres given he still has Adam Blair, Frank Pritchard and Jeremy Smith in the second-row.
- Sydney Morning Herald
Who is your pick for international league player of the year?Related story: (See story)