BRIAN O'DRISCOLL has hinted at a possible retirement date after stating that the 2015 Rugby World Cup is "18 months too far" for him.
The World Cup begins in mid-September 2015 and O'Driscoll's comment would indicate that he intends to retire at the end of the 2013/2014 season, although he declined to set a specific date.
Speaking after the RWC 2015 pool draw in London – which pitted Ireland against France and Italy – the 33-year-old Leinster and Lions star said: "It's weird, coming in I was very relaxed, no pressure's on it because I don't for a second anticipate that I'll have any involvement (in the World Cup).
"But something stirs you deep down. I think it's probably 18 months too far."
The Ireland captain, who confirmed that he is on schedule to be back playing for Leinster in the new year and will play in next year's Six Nations championship, did say that he will be in England for the tournament as Ireland's "No 1 supporter".
His comments will now inevitably lead to increased speculation that he will call time on his glittering playing career after the Lions tour to Australia next summer.
"I think it's fair to say I'm not going to make it. If I did, I'd be as shocked as you would be, so it's best if I just say, no, it's highly unlikely," said O'Driscoll.
O'Driscoll is currently rehabilitating after ankle surgery and is scheduled to see a specialist today, at which time he will have a clearer idea of a potential return date. And while he wouldn't say how much longer he felt he would be playing the game, O'Driscoll will be listening to his body.
"I don't know because I haven't even wanted to contemplate next year because I'm not playing. It's hard to talk about that (when likely to retire) when you're not playing.
"So when I get into Six Nations camp, hopefully I'll get back playing and see how that works out, see how the body feels. It's funny, I was sitting there today and still I was enthusiastic. A little bit of you is resigned to the fact that you're not going to be there, but it doesn't mean you don't want to be.
"It's just the body can only last so long and we'll see how much longer I can get out of it. If I'm still at the level I need to be at to play international rugby, I'll continue playing because I still enjoy it.
"But I need to know when to call it a day as well, I need to listen to this (his body)."