The decision of British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland to drop Brian O’Driscoll for Saturday’s series decider against Australia caused uproar.
Few understand better than O’Driscoll that there is little room for sentiment in professional sport, but he will still have found the brutal end to his Lions career unbearably hard to accept.
Fourteen years of Test rugby have confronted him with life’s fluctuating fortunes and the decorated outside-centre has experienced extreme ends of the spectrum.
Instances of heart-breaking injustice, such as the spear tackle that ended his 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand seconds into the first Test, are offset by moments of rugby immortality like his try against Australia in 2001.
Publicly and in the company of his team-mates he will have taken Warren Gatland’s decision to discard him for the final Test with trademark good grace, but in private he will be dismayed.
The statistic of three previous failed Lions tours rankles and while that elusive series victory may yet materialise on Saturday, O’Driscoll will be watching from the stands should it arrive.
It is a shabby way to have treated one of the game’s great players. Although his form may have been disappointing in the first two Tests, his temperament and presence should identify him as an automatic selection.
Everyone will have their most cherished clips on an O’Driscoll highlights reel, whether they be based on the explosive pace and side-step that lit up his earlier days or the tenacity and indomitable spirit that have defined the latter years.
As an attacking force his powers may have waned, but the chance he conjured for Ireland team-mate Simon Zebo against Wales in February proved the magic is still there, even if it is produced less frequently now.
And as his tigerish work in defence demonstrates, he remains a ferocious competitor.
It is this last aspect that explains his longevity – including Lions Tests he has 133 caps, six short of George Gregan’s record – and exposes the steel within.
On the eve of the first Test nearly two weeks ago O’Driscoll, a bright and engaging character, held court as he addressed the media with insight and humour.
On Monday, however, he retreated to stock phrases and bland answers, clearly still reeling from the 16-15 defeat in Melbourne, but did voice concern over his place in the team. Sadly, those fears were realised this week.