GORDON D'ARCY fended off the first enquiry about his pending retirement as expertly as he has done with first-up tacklers all through a long and illustrious career.
The 34-year-old Wexford man is about to embark on a one-year contract ahead of the 17th year of his professional playing career.
It could well be his last on the road to the 2015 World Cup as the challengers queue up behind him, but he is unsure.
"I don't know, 100 per cent," said D'Arcy.
When Luke Marshall was bidding to overtake D'Arcy for Ireland last season, the veteran was the first to talk up the virtues of the Ulsterman.
The senior partner held his ground and his jersey on the field of play.
He made room yesterday for mention of Leinster's Noel Reid, another inside centre, but not in the area you would have expected.
D'Arcy pointed to Reid's strength results in pre-season - he is more widely known for his skills than physicality - which is good news for Leinster, maybe even Ireland.
This speaks very loudly about D'Arcy's security of tenure as an ultimate team player.
There may even come a time when he will have to move one out to 13 in place of the departed Brian O'Driscoll to accommodate Reid.
And that's all right with him and coach Matt O'Connor. "I want to do whatever the coach wants me to do. We've obviously lost a very influential player in Ireland and world rugby," said D'Arcy.
"Matt says he wants to divide up the resources around that area. If he wants me to play 12, if he wants me to play 13, I'm open to that".
The input of sports science into professional rugby has certainly lightened the physical load as D'Arcy looks to defy those competing for his number 12 jersey.
"I'm sure you've all heard about our good friend, the altitude tent," he added. "That takes a lot of the trauma off your joints. I'm spending a lot of time in there. It is one of the most horrific experiences of my life.
"It reduces the amount of oxygen in the air. It is like training at 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 feet. It is the equivalent of doing more volume of work in a more condensed period of time.
"The lactic burn is something special. I've never had it before in my life. There is no hiding. You run and your legs stop working and you've a burn in your chest that just won't go away."
Neither will D'Arcy. For one more year, at least.