The Wallabies have suffered a double blow ahead of their European tour after both Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon elected to remain in Japan in preparation for the new club campaign.
Both centre Kerevi and back-rower McMahon are based at Tokyo Sungoliath but were expected to play prominent roles in the upcoming fixtures against Scotland, England and Wales.
Australia defeated Japan 32-23 in Oita on Saturday before embarking for the United Kingdom, although neither player featured against the Cherry Blossoms.
The pair were previously included as two of the Wallabies' permitted exceptions to the Giteau Law, being that neither player has accumulated 60 caps and each play their club rugby outside Australia.
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos told the Sydney Morning Herald of his frustration at how the matter was handled, with the players understood to have only informed the team of their decisions on Monday.
“The players have made the decision to withdraw, for personal and or other reasons,” said Marinos .
“Hence, yes we can enforce Reg 9 as it’s within regulations, but it’s also quite difficult if a player has chosen not to tour.
“Samu has cited the fact he has been on the road for a long time, from the sevens, through to the Olympics, through to where he is. He has cited his physical and mental wellbeing. Obviously, they’re going to go into another hard-ish bubble overseas. Sean just made the decision that he would rather withdraw himself from the tour.”
Marinos went on to call the news "hugely disappointing" after the pair not long ago gave the impression they would be available for the entire spring series.
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Regulation 9 permits national teams to call players away from club duty provided it's within a recognised international Test window, like the one during the month of November.
McMahon, 27, only recently made his first Australia appearance in almost four years as a substitute against Argentina, but Kerevi will be considered a missed figure in the coming weeks.
The former Queensland Red made a major impact in the Wallabies midfield after returning for the recent Rugby Championship, seen as a potential cornerstone of the team after they finished second.
“From our side, it’s hugely disappointing. It’s disappointing for the fact that we’ve backed these players, in terms of giving them another opportunity,” Marinos added.
“We just expected a more honest approach, right from the beginning, if it was not their intention to travel.
“If there was an inclination they were not going to tour, we would have appreciated it a lot earlier. At the time, when they were told they were going to be selected on that tour.”
Kerevi has been nursing an ankle injury but was expected to recover in time for the fixtures against Scotland (November 7), England (November 13) and Wales (November 20).
Hunter Paisami now looks set to keep his place in the centres alongside Len Ikitau, the same partnership that started in the shakier-than-expected win over Japan.
Fly-half Quade Cooper was recently engaged in similar talks to remain with his club, Kintetsu Liners, rather than travel to the UK, but head coach Dave Rennie has since confirmed he will tour with the Wallabies.
The inaugural Japan Rugby League One season—the country's maiden campaign as an entirely professional organisation—is set to kick off on January 7.
Bristol Bears winger Luke Morahan and Racing 92 playmaker Kurtley Beale are said to be among the contenders for a late call-up, their inclusion simplified due to the fact they're each already playing in Europe.
The squad is already set to link up with Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Tolu Latu, each of whom play in France's Top 14, but further last-minute changes could be incoming.
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