Declan Kidney's decision to hand the Ireland captaincy to Jamie Heaslip for the Six Nations championship, thereby ending Brian O'Driscoll's long reign, marks the end of an era for Irish rugby.
The indications that the Ireland head coach was readying for a changing of the guard were perhaps evident at the back end of 2012, with Heaslip deputising for his Leinster teammate during the autumn internationals.
O'Driscoll missed the "friendlies" against Argentina, Fiji and South Africa, but many expected the 33-year-old to assume the captaincy come their opening Six Nations clash against defending champions Wales.
So naturally, Kidney's announcement has come as a big surprise - probably for Heaslip and O'Driscoll, too.
Of course it's not the end of his Ireland career - yet - but Kidney's decision leaves the Ireland head coach open to plenty of scrutiny. It's as controversial as it is brave.
Yes O'Driscoll has endured his injury problems, but his experience and quality remains unrivalled in international rugby. He has been capped 126 times, 83 of them as captain, with Australia's George Gregan and Ireland's Ronan O'Gara the only players to have made more appearances for their country.
He was appointed as skipper for the British and Irish Lions in 2005, only for his participation in the three Test series to be cruelly cut short by an infamous spear tackle which dislocated his shoulder.
O'Driscoll has been the poster boy for an era of Irish rugby which has experienced success, most notably winning the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009, plus four Triple Crowns, and lows.
The Leinster man is generally considered the greatest rugby player Ireland has ever produced, and for the service which he is provided his country, O'Driscoll should be allowed to finish his career as captain in a manner befitting a true legend of the game.
Keith Wood led out Ireland on his final international appearance against France at the 2003 World Cup in Australia, while Martin Johnson's farewell as England skipper saw him lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Wouldn't it be fitting for O'Driscoll to end his career on a similar high? Perhaps lifting the Triple Crown for a fifth time or the Six Nations championship - whether it be this April or in 2014.
It does pang of a lack of respect for a true great.
Looking at other great captains who have seen their reign end prematurely, it has usually been in controversial circumstances - John Terry being the obvious example.
So what was Kidney's reasoning?
"I don't think people realise sometimes the amount of weight that would be on a captain's shoulders and Brian's been hugely generous to the team and I just feel that now is the right time to allow him to concentrate on himself, to get himself right," Kidney said on Thursday.
With O'Driscoll readily admitting the 2015 World Cup was likely to be too big a demand for his ageing body, which has been put through the rigours of 14 years of professional rugby, it meant Kidney would need to find a new captain for the tournament - assuming he's still in charge.
And while unburdening O'Driscoll may have been a factor in his decision, perhaps the key reason behind the call was to give Heaslip the necessary exposure to the captaincy role so he is prepared for the next World Cup.
Otherwise, Heaslip would have presumably succeeded O'Driscoll when the Leinster veteran finally decided to call time on a decorated career - which could be later in 2013 or 2014. From that point of view it makes sense - a decision made to benefit Ireland's long-term future.
Kidney admitted O'Driscoll was naturally disappointed to lose the armband - and that's no surprise. But perhaps it's a measure of the man that he is ready to accept being sacrificed for the greater good of the country.
When asked to name his favourite Ireland try, it wasn't a try of individual brilliance, like that memorable burst in the Stade de France on his Six Nations debut all those years ago in 2000, or that mesmerising touchdown against Italy which saw him reclaim the Irish try record.
It was the most crucial of them all, his contribution to a Six Nations Grand Slam triumph, moving all of a couple of yards to cross the line and see Ireland on their way to the title which they had waited 61 years to win.
And that will forever be remembered as the highlight of his reign. Thanks for the memories Brian.