Declan Kidney's reign as Ireland coach came to an ignominious end in April as an injury-hit Irish side crashed to a 22-15 defeat against Italy in Rome. It was a sad end to a glorious five years but the time had come to move in a new direction.
And so when Ireland face the U.S. Eagles in Houston on Saturday, it will be the dawn of a new era: the Joe Schmidt era. And while the man himself may not be at the helm just yet, one can't help but feel he's already pulling the strings behind the scenes.
With 10 starters on tour with the British and Irish Lions in Australia and a few others recuperating at home after a long season, this is a chance for a host of youngsters to make their mark.
Here's a quick look at a few of the players to keep an eye on.
At just 19 years old, he's two years removed from being allowed to enjoy some champagne on his debut in Houston. Somehow I doubt that will dampen his mood.
It's been a swift rise to the top for the young man from Athlone who will be the first teenager to earn a full cap for Ireland in the professional era.
Just over a year ago he was powering Marist College to their first Connacht Senior Cup title in over 30 years. Now he's making his Ireland debut having already faced the likes of Biarritz and Harlequins in the Heineken Cup.
A powerful and elusive ball-carrier, he will be looking to attack if the Eagles are sloppy with their kicking, while at 6'3" and with a background in Gaelic football, he should be secure under the high ball.
His time at full-back might be short-lived as many believe he may be the man who will eventually replace Brian O'Driscoll in the centre.
That's next year's problem, though, so for the time being let's enjoy the reigning IRUPA Young Player of the Year as he makes his first strides in the international game.
The latest player off the Ulster Academy production line (more on that later) is the 20-year-old Olding who will line up at inside centre.
Having made his debut back in 2011 he faded into the background as first Paddy Jackson and then Luke Marshall burst onto the scene.
In the end it was an injury to Marshall that gave him a second crack at the whip, and he hasn't looked back since.
He scored a string of tries during the run-in of the 2013 season as Ulster weathered an injury crisis in the centre.
A second five-eighth in the old-school mold, he is more a ball player at 12 than a hit-it-up merchant that has become the norm in the modern game.
Surprisingly he is a decent defender for his size, relying on the age-old tactic of taking his man low and early.
He makes up for his lack of bulk with an fantastic stepping ability. He glides past tacklers, often making them look stupid (go to the 1:40 mark of this YouTube video), and has the pace to pull away from chasers.
If he and Ian Madigan click, Saturday could be a really exciting game for all in attendance.
While he's no spring chicken, having made his Leinster debut back in 2009, he rise to prominence this season has been meteoric.
Sexton had been the driving force as Leinster became arguably the greatest team in the history of the Heineken Cup. Was it the end of an era?
While hardcore fans had long been fond of his ability, not many saw Madigan as the long-term solution.
But in the face of huge pressure Madigan played some fantastic rugby, and by the end of the season the issue was not who would replace Sexton but how to fit the duo into the same team.
Reared in the hallowed halls of the famous rugby nursery at Blackrock College, he plays the game with a real sense of abandon. But he has backed his flamboyance up by delivering when it matters.
Purists will gasp as he attempts a deft chip from behind his own line, but he gets fans on their feet and has become a real fan favourite in no time. A local pub has gone so far as to brand its beer garden Madigan Square Garden.
He's shined under immense pressure before and, at 24, knows this is a chance he has to take with both hands. Expect fireworks.
The baby in an experienced (domestically at least) Irish pack is another young Ulsterman. And at while 21 years old, he doesn't look much older than 18.
In recent years Ulster have breed a string of hard-hitting blindside flankers, and while at 6'6" his long-term position is likely in the second row, he is cut from the same stone.
Having burst onto the scene during the 2012 Under-20 World Cup, he has passed each step up in quality with flying colours.
On top of being a physical defender he is dynamic with ball in hand, as Saracens will attest to.
The likes of Jackson, Marshall, Olding and Henderson all bursting onto the scene is a great thing for Irish rugby.
They have a great friendship and will help each other grow into the international game. And one can't help but think that they all play to honour their fallen teammate, Nevin Spence.
At a young age they have all seen how tragic life can be. When they play, they don't just honour themselves but they honour his memory,