DESPITE a Six Nations experience he describes as "torture", Ronan O'Gara is determined to continue playing international rugby for at least two more years and claims calls for his retirement are "a joke".
Having failed to force his way into the Ireland side ahead of Jonathan Sexton, O'Gara did not register any Six Nations points for the first time since the competition began in 2000, but that has steeled his determination to play international rugby for as long as possible.
"Calls for my retirement ... what a joke given my record over the last few years," O'Gara said.
"Why should I? Anyone who knows me knows I'll be the first to call retirement when my time is up. And I can assure you my time ain't up. I plan to play for my country until I'm 38 but definitely until I'm 37. Playing is what it is all about. I love playing for Munster, I love playing for Ireland."
Following Ireland's World Cup win over Australia last year, O'Gara spoke in the heat of the moment about stepping down from international rugby but, six months on, that is the furthest thing from his mind as Ireland gear up for a summer tour of New Zealand.
"I have never felt better about my rugby," said O'Gara, who turned 35 earlier this month. "I've never worked harder and I am as committed as ever.
"I'm fitter now than I was five years ago and my work rate in training is higher than it ever was.
"It was torture not starting in the (Six Nations) games. You question everything. But then you have to put it to one side -- it's not as if I could have been playing any better at the time -- and you have to stay professional.
"I continually question myself. Trust me, I will know when it is time for me to retire from international rugby. I'll be honest with myself and there will come a day when I can no longer produce at this level ... that day isn't even close."