The Western Force have dumped their New Zealand import Willie Ripia, despite a full year remaining on his contract, because of a "serious breach of team protocols".
The Force denied that the breach involved any member of the public and said it was an "internal incident", without giving any details of what transpired.
In a statement issued on Tuesday the Force said Ripia will not be part of their squad in 2012, after the club agreed to accept the player's "resignation".
"The club has investigated a serious breach of team protocols by the New Zealand-born flyhalf and following a meeting this [Tuesday] morning with senior management, Ripia offered his resignation later in the day," the statement said.
"The club wishes to stress that the matter relates to an internal incident at the club and does not involve any member of the public or public property."
Head Coach Richard Graham said he will review his options over the coming days before making any decisions on the possible recruitment of another playmaker to the club.
The 26-year-old playmaker was born in Murupara, New Zealand, and attended Rotorua Boys' High School.
Ripia started his Super Rugby career at the Highlanders, before moving to the Hurricanes in 2008 - where he played 29 times for the Wellington-based franchise.
He also played for Taranaki in the NPC.
Ripia has played for New Zealand at Under-19 and Under-21 levels, and also for New Zealand Maori.
In August 2010 he has declared his intention to play for Australia, when he qualifies on residency, after he signed a two-year contract at the Western Force.
He played just seven matches for them last year, after suffering from a mystery foot injury and then a calf muscle problem.
Ripia's loss could be a huge blow to the Force's prospects.
Having already lost mercurial Wallaby James O'Connor to the Melbourne Rebels in controversial circumstances last year and now Ripia, coach Richard Graham will be desperate to find a quality replacement.
However, he has just over a month to the start of the season and the Perth-based outfit said they will speak to the Australian Rugby Union about the possibility of signing another overseas player.
"In the short term we will utilise our playing stocks and review our options once we have further clarity about recruitment from the ARU," Graham said.
His resignation could open the door to former Australian Sevens player James Stannard - who began his domestic career at flyhalf, converted to scrumhalf when he first joined the Force, but was a revelation when he stepped in at No.10 for Ripia at the end of last season.
The only other playmakers on the Force books are Ben Seymour, 21, who signed this year from the Waratahs academy and who has no Super Rugby experience, and extended squad member Kyle Godwin, 19, who is still not fully recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him out of rugby last year.
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