Ireland have denied the decision to omit Ronan O'Gara from an extended squad signals the end of his Test career.
For the first time in 13 years O'Gara's name was absent from the 32 called to the squad's Carton House training camp to continue preparations for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with France at the Aviva Stadium.
Instead, Leinster pair Jonathan Sexton and Ian Madigan and Ulster's Paddy Jackson were the three fly-halves present.
When the Six Nations began, Ireland's most capped player - who turns 36 on Thursday - was ranked second in the pecking order behind Sexton, but following two dismal substitute displays against England and Scotland, he has been demoted to fourth.
Given his age and declining form, it is hard to envisage O'Gara adding to his 128 caps, but assistant coach Les Kiss is adamant he could yet force his way back into Declan Kidney's thinking.
"Ronan continues to provide value whenever he's around the camp. I have every faith that he will put his hand up and say 'I'm still part of this picture'," Kiss said.
"That's how I see him responding at this stage. Without a doubt he'll be disappointed, but nothing's finished yet and he could be back in the picture pretty quickly."
Kiss' view was shared by team manager Mick Kearney, who also defended the manner in which the news was broken.
A two-paragraph statement released by the Irish Rugby Football Union last night made no mention of the exclusion of O'Gara, who has been an ever-present among Ireland squads since making his debut in 2000.
"I don't think this marks the end of Ronan's international career. There's still every possibility that he may be involved again," Kearney said.
"By leaving him out of the squad for France, it certainly wasn't Declan's intention that he was writing off his international career. That's not the case at all.
"It's a selection call. Declan spoke to Ronan yesterday. He wanted to give Ronan advance warning of what his thinking would be.
"If Ronan had come in he'd have been running in the centre or on the wing. Out of respect, Declan didn't want him to do that.
"Giving him an early warning was the right thing to do, given who Ronan is. He was disappointed, as you'd expect him to be.
"Obviously Ronan is an absolute legend of Irish rugby who has contributed a massive amount, but it wouldn't have been the right thing to do for Declan or the management to issue a statement.
"It wasn't that we were signalling the end of his career, there's still a decent possibility that Ronan will be involved before the end of the Six Nations.
"If that's the case, I don't think a statement would have served any real purpose."
With Sexton's availability for Saturday still hanging in the balance due to the hamstring injury sustained against England, Ireland must decide whether to retain Jackson or give Madigan his debut.
Jackson acquitted himself well in open play against Scotland, but crucially he missed eight points from the kicking tee in the 12-8 defeat at Murrayfield.
If Sexton fails to recover in time, Ireland will enter a must-win encounter with two fly-halves who have only one cap between them.
"Jonny has only been running in straight lines. The plan is that tomorrow he will run as close as possible at full speed and take it on from then. Tomorrow will be a very important day," Kearney said.
"It's very difficult to make a call at this stage. He hasn't been ruled out, but at best he's 50-50. He's done no kicking yet."
Lock Donnacha Ryan and wing Craig Gilroy are doubts because of shoulder and groin injuries, but second row Mike McCarthy has returned to full training after recovering from a knee problem.
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