'You're just one injury away, that's the scary part about being a rugby player' - Johnny Sexton sets an ideal retirement date
Johnny Sexton has identified the 2021 Lions tour of South Africa as the "ideal" end-point to his glittering career.
The out-half is likely to be confirmed as Ireland co-captain for the tour to Australia along with Peter O'Mahony as the squad assemble on the Gold Coast later today and has spoken to the Irish Independent's Weekend magazine about his long-term future.
Now 32, Sexton has enjoyed an epic season, coming off the Lions series and winning the hat-trick of the Grand Slam, Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 titles. He is yet to lose a game in 2017/18.
Despite a couple of niggling issues, he appears to have left his injury issues behind.
"In an ideal world I'd like to play three more seasons - I'd be 33, 34 and 35," he said. "But you see outliers… people like Donncha O'Callaghan and Peter Stringer and you think if you look after yourself you might be able to prolong your career.
"I have Stuart Lancaster in my ear now sending me videos of Tom Brady (the American football superstar) and he's 40.
"Sometimes in Ireland you feel that people retire before they want to, even if they're producing the goods."
Although he wants to continue for another three seasons, Sexton is fully aware that his body could let him down.
"I think about it a bit," he said. "You look at someone with an incredible injury profile like Jamie Heaslip, and one freak incident with a tackle bag and his career is finished.
"It just shows you, you're just one injury away; that's the scary part about being a rugby player. But when you're on the pitch, you don't think like that."
Having travelled in two batches, the squad will travel from Brisbane to the Gold Coast later today. They will train fully on Tuesday ahead of the series opener against Australia at SunCorp Stadium next Saturday.
Although they lost Rory Best on the eve of departure, Schmidt expects all of the travelling party to be available despite Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Iain Henderson carrying knocks.