Johnny Sexton has indicated that he will finish his international career before the next World Cup in 2023.
The Ireland captain says talk of him continuing until the France tournament, when he will be 38, was not fuelled by him.
However, Sexton's concession that it may prove a bridge too far still came somewhat out of the blue.
At a press conference ahead of Saturday's Guinness Six Nations match against Italy, the out-half was asked about how players can communicate better on the field.
In the middle of his reply, he said: "If we talk about World Cup cycles, I might not be part of the full cycle but this group will definitely be better for this type of coaching and structures."
Asked if that realisation had come about recently, the 102-cap international, who missed the loss to France due to a head injury, added: "If you look at what I said...it’s been other people that have sort of thrown fuel on the fire.
"Isa [Nacewa, former Leinster captain] telling people that I could play until I was 40,41.
"I’ve always been of the same position, where I absolutely love what I do. I’m very privileged to do it and I’m still loving it and I’ll keep playing for now.
"That has never changed, you know what I mean, like. I’ve spoken about admiration for athletes that have stayed at the top of their game for a long time but ...what I said or what someone else said, it can get lost a bit, but for the moment I’m still motivated.
"I hope that my team-mates and coaches see how motivated I am to train well every day and then to keep going and whenever that is, I can’t say I’m going to play [until a certain age] because no one knows.
"[You can be] 24 or 25 years of age, you get an injury and you’re finished, like then, you know what I mean so it’s, yeah, at the moment I am contracted for this season and nearly contracted for next season.
"Hopefully, I’ll stay and we’ll see what happens."
The Leinster playmaker also revealed that he is very close to completing his contract negotiations with his province.
"Nearly, yeah, nearly, nearly, nearly, yeah but waiting on, nearly there, waiting on Leinster to see if Leinster want to keep me or not," he said.
"There are some good young 10s coming through so..."
Sexton was also asked about his future, inside or out the rugby world, coaching, punditry, something else completely?
"Eh, none of the above," Sexton, who is fit and available for the trip to Rome, told RTÉ Sport.
"I have a fair idea what I'll be doing. Yeah, you never tell anyone your plans because they can change, can’t they?
"But no, I’ve got some things that I’ll work towards, whether it’s a year or two years I don’t know.
"I’ll work towards getting into the real world and starting another life.
"There are some parts of this game that are amazing, that you love and you’d love to be a part of it forever but then there are some parts you can wait to get a million miles away from it.
"So, I love it at the moment. I’m loving every moment of playing. I’m just want to focus on this campaign and if I stay on next year just focus on that and try and make the most of whatever is left."
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