Triple Lions tourist Ronan O’Gara could yet challenge for a fourth tour after insisting he wants to carry on playing for at least another two years.
The 35-year-old, who toured with the Lions in 2001, 2005 and 2009, says he intends to carry on representing Munster and Ireland until he is 37 or 38.
O’Gara had suggested he was about to retire from the Test arena following the World Cup win over the Wallabies but he laughed off those remarks after Ireland’s quarter-final defeat to Wales.
And now the veteran playmaker is claiming that he has no plans to call it quits in the near future, leaving him as a real contender for the 2013 Lions adventure in Australia.
"Calls for my retirement…what a joke given my record over the last few years," said O'Gara, who won Test caps with the Lions in New Zealand and South Africa.
"Why should I? Anyone who knows me knows I'll be the first to call retirement when my time is up. And I can assure you my time ain't up.
"I plan to play for my country until I'm 38 but definitely until I'm 37. Playing is what it is all about. I love playing for Munster, I love playing for Ireland."
O’Gara even insists he feels better than ever about his game, despite admitting that playing second fiddle to Jonny Sexton in the Irish set up is ‘torture’.
The double Heineken Cup winner currently has an incredible 121 caps for his country, plus two for the Lions, with only Australia’s George Gregan ahead of him in the all-time list.
O’Gara is level with Brian O’Driscoll and just 16 appearances behind legendary scrum-half Gregan, meaning he could jump to the top of the standings when the Lions take on the Wallabies in just under 15 months’ time.
"I have never felt better about my rugby. I’m fitter now than I was five years ago. I’ve never worked harder and I am as committed as ever," added O’Gara.
"To walk away would be to do myself a disservice. I’d be cheating myself because I know that I’m still good enough to start and win these games.
"Age is just a number. Paulo Maldini won European footballer of the year when he was 39 years of age. Did anyone question his ability and commitment? And Paul Scholes is still bossing matters in midfield for Manchester United and he is well into his 30s. Like I said, age is only a number and I will continue to prove that.
"It's torture not starting (for Ireland). You question everything. But then you have to put it to one side – it's not as if I could have been playing any better at the time – and you have to stay professional.
"I will know when it is time for me to retire from international rugby. I'll be honest with myself and three will come a day when I can no longer produce at this level… that day isn’t even close."
If you would like to follow the Lions Down Under in 2013, visit lionstour.com, home of the British & Irish Lions' official travel company.