Munster Rugby confirmed on Monday the news that no fan wanted to hear - Simon Zebo will be playing his rugby abroad from the start of next season.
It's not only a blow for Munster, but for Ireland as with the Rugby World Cup two years away it would seem as though Zebo playing in France or England (or wherever he lands) would rule him out of selection for the national team unless a special allowance is made ala Johnny Sexton.
Zebo is Munster's leading try scorer with 55 tries in his 124 appearances since making his debut in 2010, and is a massive personality around the squad which will add to the tough task of replacing his skill on the pitch whenever the powers that start the search for his successor.
He has made no secret of his desire to play abroad, and with family links to France it is expected that he will be playing Top 14 rugby next season although that is yet to be confirmed.
Despite the IRFU's attempts to keep him it is clear that he has received a very attractive offer elsewhere, and the reaction on Twitter in the moments after the news broke was one of surprise at the timing more than anything.
Wow did not expect that but he has a young family to think of in a short career. Good luck to him. https://t.co/T8LouBbeMZ
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) October 23, 2017
Losing a player of Zebo's talent in his prime at this stage of a World Cup cycle is a massive blow to the IRFU. Even worse for Munster
— Rúaidhrí O'Connor (@RuaidhriOC) October 23, 2017
Who can begrudge him this move? A good deal was put in place but a move at this point makes sense for him. A Munster legend already
— Three Red Kings (@threeredkings) October 23, 2017
Strange timing for Zebo to leave. He’s finally trusted by Joe Schmidt. World Cup around the corner. Huge loss for Munster and Irish rugby.
— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) October 23, 2017
Zebo heading to France.
Wasn't expecting that at all.
Especially with just two years until the RWC.
— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) October 23, 2017
Big blow to Munster losing Simon Zebo. I know he is going for the money but you'd assume this will finish his Ireland career
— Peadar Breathnach (@PeadarBreathnac) October 23, 2017
@IrishRugby will have a serious issue going forward if we lose players like @SimonZebo Donnacha Ryan etc yearly to French Clubs :( #Zebo
— An Pucan (@anpucangalway) October 23, 2017
Simon Zebo to leave @Munsterrugby at season's end. Not sure province or IRFU could have done much more on this one - put huge offer on table
— Tony Leen (@tonyleen) October 23, 2017
Interested to see whether there will be an outcry from Irish fans should Simon Zebo be left out by Ireland once he moves away.
— Simon Thomas (@simonrug) October 23, 2017
Racing 92 are the bookies' favourites in terms of his next club, and while a number of English clubs are also on the list suggested it would be a big surprise if France is not his destination.
It's certainly going to be a blow, and we're going to badly miss his repeated slagging of Dave Kilcoyne on Instagram as much as anything.