Former All Blacks outside back Charles Piutau's Rugby World Cup dream has been ended for a second time.
The 27-year-old was desperate to represent Tonga at next year's global showpiece but Stuff.co.nz senior writer Paul Cully has revealed that those hopes have been shattered.
Piutau missed the 2015 Rugby World Cup when he was left out of the All Blacks squad after announcing he had signed a deal with Irish province Ulster.
At the All Blacks said Piutau's impending move played no role in their decision and was based on form, although Piutau was named man of the match in the All Blacks' 27-20 win against the Springboks in Johannesburg in July, 2015.
Tonga Head coach Toutai Kefu told Stuff confirmed that Piutau would not be available saying "It got ruled out a couple of months ago,"
"We were actively exploring a group of players, not just Charles, that were in the same boat and whether we could qualify them before the World Cup, and we can't.
"First of all they've got to sit out three years, which Charles has, and a group of other guys have.
"The next process is we have to qualify them in an Olympic qualifying Sevens tournament and the only one that's available to us is after the World Cup.
"We looked into trying to move that tournament to before the World Cup and were unsuccessful in doing that."
The current World Sevens Series is being used an Olympic qualifier, however, Tonga are not a core nation in the Series meaning they would only be able to feature after the World Cup. Piutau amoung other players wishing to represent Tonga would need to wait for the World Cup cycle.
Kefu lamented the game's eligibility rules and the need for players to go through the Sevens route.
"I think that's a bit rich," Kefu said.
"It"s just an extra hoop we don't need players to jump through - the three years alone, stand-down, is fine.
"I don't think there are any integrity issues there.
"When you watch a game and you have the best players on the field and you have a fantastic spectacle in front of you, I don't think anyone is thinking about integrity.
"Then you watch like teams like Japan, and half the team is Tongan, I think you start talking about integrity in that scenario."
Despite the disappointment, Kefu said we hopeful of persuading some other Tongan-qualified players in New Zealand of joining their World Cup campaign, nominating Blues lock/blindside Jimmy Tupou, Hurricanes lock Sam Lousi and Highlanders prop Siate Tokolahi as three players he had his eye on.
The likes of Ma'a Nonu, Victor Vito, Digby Ioane, Isaia Toeava and Joe Rokocoko could all still switch allegiances using the Olympic loophole with Fiji and Samoa featuring the World Sevens Series.
Image Credit: Bristol Bears