I don’t think I could retire from Ireland and keeping playing for Leinster – O’Driscoll
Published 27/02/2013 | 04:00
The envelope with the IRFU postmark has already landed through his letterbox, but Brian O'Driscoll hasn't even begun to contemplate his future plans.
At 34, his career may be nearing an end but, having just begun to appreciate fatherhood while also embroiled in a grim championship struggle with Ireland to avoid ignominy, there is too much living to be done right now to even consider what happens next year, never mind next week.
"I have been approached by the union," he admits. "They have said they want to talk and discuss things.
"But we just said listen we'll focus on the now, on the Six Nations, and we'll be able to come back and have a discussion.
"They're happy enough with that, the situation I'm in. It's probably quite different with others, they wanted to get other people signed up, which they've been able to do. So there's not as much pressure on my contract.
"I'm not under massive pressure to make a decision at the moment, which suits me fine. I'm enjoying my rugby, I am still enjoying it.
"I enjoyed camp last week. It will be harder this week after games like the weekend. I don't have a gun to my head at the moment, which suits me fine. The longer I am able to make the decision, it will come more natural."
While it is almost incomprehensible to think of an Irish rugby landscape devoid of its greatest ever player, the end is nigh.
Except it seems certain that it will arrive on his terms.
No external forces will influence him, whether a change in Irish coach, Leinster's transition or even the temptation to end his career on a natural high with a belated Lions series win in Australia.
"I'm fortunate that I'm in a situation that I can make the decision," he says.
"Well, that's before we go into negotiations. I want to know myself. I need to know myself if I'm up to it. If I am, then we go negotiating.
"Then I'll be able to go 'thank you very much, let's not even get into batting numbers, I just feel that my time as a professional is up'."
Because he won't stick around to make up the numbers, albeit such a scenario is just as inconceivable as contemplating Irish rugby without him.
He won't hang around for the sake of it; like everything he has ever done on a rugby field, it must have purpose.
"Being over in Edinburgh the other day and looking at the Leinster game from my hotel, first of all I don't know if you'd be able to play provincially and not nationally, there's so many permutations there that I haven't even looked at yet.
"But I think I would find it hard still playing rugby, knowing I'm playing Rabo while the rest of the lads are getting ready to play international rugby the next day.
"That would be tough going. I don't know, I don't know. I'm not lying to you. It's not like I've made this great decision in my head and I'm keeping it all from you. I genuinely don't know.
"I think it's starting to come to me slowly in terms of what I need to know and how I feel. The more games I get, the more it's triggering it in my head, yes or no."
A new family offers a change in perspective, if not in his unswerving focus to doing his best for club and country.
"Well, I've only had her for two weeks," he smiles of young Sadie's arrival into his world. "Priorities change in a couple of ways. Because obviously you want to look after your family.
"At the same time, for a long time rugby was the be all and end all. And it absolutely isn't that way now.
"There is a huge priority swing with my daughter coming. I've seen it in other guys in the past and I'm sure there'll be other guys in the future.
"The defeat at the weekend, it was very painful. But when you go home to your wife and your daughter, you're able to shelve that part of your life and be happy in your own world. It's 100pc a positive, that side of things.
"I didn't go into that game thinking I need to be careful because I have someone to look after.
"That side of your game doesn't change.
"It just gives you a bigger perspective on life in general, understanding what's important. And yeah, family is most important."
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