FOR the first time, Brian O'Driscoll has not ruled out the prospect of playing on to the 2015 World Cup.
"I don't think so. But I don't know. Anything is possible, I suppose," he said yesterday.
"If you played next year and you didn't play a lot of games and you felt good and were lucky with injury, yeah – and if the desire was still there.
"But that is so many 'ifs' again. There is really no point in talking about two years' time because I do know that a World Cup would be three pre-seasons away and I am not doing three of them."
Future Ireland coach Joe Schmidt could have his arm twisted into a special dispensation for O'Driscoll on the grounds of time served. He has been exact about his physical and mental match preparation.
The risk to health increases as the lungs and limbs grow older. The general wear and tear on O'Driscoll's body is already there the morning after a game and for longer.
"If I was to stand for half an hour or three-quarters of an hour my back will start seizing up on me, so I need to sit down, lie down or get the foam roller out or a hockey ball to try and work the muscle out," he said. "I never used to do that. Cian Healy is not doing that. So that career of 15 years has a cumulative effect of stiffening you up.
"Any time I run out to the training pitch after being in on a video session for an hour I'm not able to do a spiral 50 yards down the pitch because my leg will fly after the ball.
"I need five or six minutes longer than everyone else and I can see that Leo Cullen is in the exact same boat. It is simply an age thing. Miles on the clock.
"You aren't what you were 10 years ago. That's life. I'm sure it's the same for any guy who has played professional sport for 10 or 15 years."
And still the warrior spirit is there inside of him. The unwanted happening of injury or punishment of suspension can be of long-term benefit, allowing the body to recover.
"Obviously, having a break for the ankle surgery in October, then I wouldn't have ideally liked the three weeks (suspension) off after the Six Nations but that happened," O'Driscoll added.
"(But) it definitely worked to my advantage having some time off and being able to get back into the gym and give the few niggles that I did have throughout the Six Nations a chance to heal."
The four-time Lion still has "mixed" feelings about when his time in the game will end: "That's why I've put it off for as long as I have.
"I am not trying to play a game with anyone. I have genuinely just wanted to let the season play out and listen to head and body and react after that."
The fact that O'Driscoll is even willing to contemplate another World Cup must point to one more season with Leinster and Ireland.