Last Thursday, Paul O'Connell sat virtually alongside Ireland coach Andy Farrell and Dundalk manager Vinny Perth to chew the fat about coaching and analysis as part of the IRFU's Analytica 2020 conference.
It didn't matter that he was the only member of the panel who isn't currently coaching at the elite edge of their sport, when the former Ireland captain spoke his two esteemed co-panellists hung on every word.
Saturday marked the five-year anniversary of the Limerick legend's final Munster match. This was no fairytale farewell; a 31-13 hammering by a vastly superior Glasgow Warriors meant O'Connell finished with, as he wrote in his autobiography 'The Battle', "the biggest disappointment of my Munster career".
Yet there was much to look forward to. Retirement was not on the horizon, his immediate future was mapped out. There was a World Cup to focus on, then a lucrative two-year deal with the reigning European champions Toulon, who were counting on him to be the catalyst for their future success.
He went to the World Cup in peak physical condition and was enjoying a fine tournament until those horrendous moments when Pascal Papé crashed into him at an angle and his hamstring said goodbye to the bone it was attached to.
That changed the course of his career, bringing forward retirement by a couple of years and ending his ambition of experiencing life outside Munster as a player.
Given his standing and his renown for being one of the great tactical thinkers, a leader and a man who possesses a lot of emotional intelligence, it seemed to many on the outside that a life within rugby beckoned.
He, however, was not sure.
"I'll have a look at coaching, it's something that interests me. Some days it's something I really want to do, other days it's the last thing I want to do," he said on the day he retired.
"With a young family, it's a difficult job. But there are certain roles in rugby that interest me but the real world interests me as well."
Those comments have almost set a template for his life after rugby. O'Connell has dabbled in coaching, without ever firmly committing to a life that demands so much of those who take the plunge.
The IRFU have made no secret of their desire to keep him involved.
"You don't want to waste a resource like Paul O'Connell, he's got a lot to offer Irish rugby," performance director David Nucifora said in 2016.
He worked as an advisor at Munster's Academy for a period, before joining the Ireland U-20s backroom team for the 2018 campaign.
On the back of that, he took his firmest step towards a life in coaching by linking up with his close friend and former team-mate Mike Prendergast as part of former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer's backroom team at Stade Francais.
Finally, he and his young family would get their French experience but his stint lasted just one year and he quit amid talk of creative tensions.
All the while, he has been a regular face on TV screens as a pundit for the BBC and ITV where he provides calm, clear analysis and real insight.
He enjoys a successful commercial life, his company NellCon Ltd recorded profits of €2.15m in 2019 and so there is no financial imperative to coach.
And yet, those who know him best feel he has much to contribute.
"I learnt a huge amount off him," Prendergast said earlier this year. "Paul has been exposed to the best, he's a highly intelligent person with a highly intelligent rugby brain. I took a lot of his ideas, being honest.
"He's been exposed to so many different coaches through the Lions, with Ireland. The knowledge he has. I know he's out of it this year, but I hope he does go back into it because he's so much to pass on.
"He enjoyed it, it was a different challenge . . . parts of the coaching staff wanted to play with ambition and certain parts of the staff weren't and that sometimes happens. We were all put together, effectively, but he's got so much to offer.
"We worked well, we shared a lot of stuff. We stayed back late in the office bouncing things off each other and, the thing about Paul and I is we understand each other, so we were able to go after things and there was never anything personal taken. It was thoroughly enjoyable."
Five years on from his final Munster match, it remains unclear whether O'Connell will fully commit.
Like many of his former team-mates, he knows how all-consuming and challenging coaching can be. He also knows that there is no rush, having watched Anthony Foley struggle when promoted to the top job at a young age.
He declined to be interviewed for this piece but, in November 2018, O'Connell – then at Stade – spoke of how he was assessing the experience.
"I'm still a bit suck it and see, it's addictive," he said. "If I didn't have a wife and kids I could stay in there until 10 or 11 o'clock every night, talking rugby, watching rugby and it's very addictive."
Even when talking to Farrell and Perth, he spoke of the need for balance – of trying to finish the video review on the bus home from games so he could spend Sunday with his wife and children.
Perhaps O'Connell is afraid that if he fully committed to a project, he'd find it too difficult not to become obsessed with the job and would lose that all-important balance.
He's 40 now and, while the game is ever-changing, he remains a relevant figure with plenty to offer.
Prendergast has moved to the far more stable Racing 92 and thrived, while his old friend Ronan O'Gara has spoken of his dream of working with O'Connell at Munster one day.
Maybe a dry run at La Rochelle would help them stick the landing, but O'Connell may be reluctant to up sticks and move to France again.
Joe Schmidt could come calling when he makes his inevitable move back into coaching, while Farrell invited O'Connell into his Ireland camp in the week of the England game and wants his young leaders to find their voice and discover a lost aggressive edge and may see a role in his plans for the former skipper.
The Lions are of course off to South Africa next summer (pandemic permitting) and the 2009 captain could be a good man to have on board behind the scenes. If he chose rugby, rugby would find a home for him quickly.
It would be a great shame if Irish rugby lost his input. The system functions well, but there remains room for improvement across the board and the knowledgeable former skipper would be a great asset to Munster or Ireland if he got involved.
The question is whether O'Connell needs the sport as much as the sport – and Irish rugby in particular – needs him.
Anyone who was alive in 1976 will remember the great summer of that year. It went on forever. That oppressive heat and continuous blue sky for a 12-year-old meant trips to the seaside and being AWOL from dawn until dusk.