O'Driscoll fears the end
Brian O'Driscoll has admitted he is dreading the day he finally hangs up his boots.
The Ireland captain said he believes he has got another 18 months before he finally calls time on his incredible career, but the 32-year-old said he is terrified at the thought of leaving the dressing-room for the very last time.
O'Driscoll , who earned the first of his 123 caps in 1999, said his dream is to escape injury and make the 2013 Lions Tour.
"Throughout the years, I heard lads talking about the end of their careers and how much they were missing the camaraderie and the craic, and I was thinking that they were exaggerating," he said.
"I was saying: 'That's a bit too much man love,' but I can see it now. I can see what they were talking about.
"When you're involved for 10, 12, 14 years, that's a huge part of your life. I've spent over a third of my life playing professional rugby, so it's going to have a huge impact when the day comes that I'm not doing it anymore and I'm dreading it.
"Once you're not part of a squad anymore, you'll never feel the same with those lads.
"It's a tie-in that nobody else can have unless you're part of a squad. I see guys who were hugely popular with Leinster over the last few years, John Fogarty, Malcolm O'Kelly and others, and because they're not part of every-day training they just can't have that connection. They're still tied to certain people, but not the team as a whole. That's all gone."
O'Driscoll, whose dreams of reaching a World Cup semi-final ended after crashing out to Wales in Wellington, spoke of his fears for the future in the November issue of 'Rugby World' magazine. The centre said that despite his bulging trophy cabinet, which includes a Grand Slam and two Heineken Cups, he still has unfinished business on the field.
And he stressed that he is determined to prove his critics wrong.
"For me, the inspiration is about trying to be the best I can be, trying to show those who doubt me, the people who might think I'm over the hill, that I still have it.
"You want to throw in some big performances and win things and silence those critics, that's important. But you also want to try to leave some sort of legacy behind as to what kind of player you were.
"I don't want to be somebody who just petered off towards the end of his career, I want to go out on a high.
"You'll see some people on my Twitter account that say stuff.
"But I discovered one thing many years ago, and it's that you can't keep everybody happy. I tried it, but I gave it up a long, long time ago. You're always going to have people who resent or dislike you because they heard some ridiculous rumour through the grapevine or, unbeknown to you, you did something to offend them."
However, O'Driscoll admits he's glad he's not starting his career now, as the increasing demands of the professional era have made the game tougher than ever before.
"It's a lot harder than when I was first capped. Physically, it's a different league. The top guys have always been of a very high standard, but professionalism has allowed players who are maybe a bit limited from a skill point of view to work hard on other aspects of their game and they can be a very, very potent force in the modern game."
Speaking of the future, he said rugby would continue to play a big part in his life, particularly at the rugby academies where he says youngsters' manners are just as important as their performance on the field. "I'd love to be able to do some more academies and teach some of the things I've learned and get children active."