Italy v Ireland, Six Nations, March 16
O'Driscoll hints he may play on
ESPN Staff
March 14, 2013
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll is helped from the field, Ireland v France, Six Nations, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, March 9, 2013
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll was concussed during his side's draw with France last weekend © PA Photos

Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll has reiterated that he will not make a decision on his playing future until the end of the season but has hinted he believes his body could stand up to the rigours of a new deal.

O'Driscoll is out of contract with Leinster and the Irish Rugby Football Union at the end of the current campaign with reports suggesting that he may be ready to call time on his glittering career. But the 34-year-old centre, who is expected to claim a place on what would be his fourth British & Irish Lions tour later this year, insists he has not yet made his mind up and is fully focused on ensuring Ireland end the Six Nations with victory over Italy in Rome on Saturday.

"That line of questioning has been coming for a few years," O'Driscoll told Newstalk when asked about his possible retirement. "You get to a point at, 30, 31, and it is a case of when can we retire him? But now you see sports people, the likes of [Manchester United FC player] Ryan Giggs who will now be playing until he is 40, Brad Thorn, Nathan Hines, Simon Shaw, who is going to be 40 next year - these guys are all second rows granted but there is an ability to play on longer if you look after yourself and that's the big thing - taking care of your body, understanding what works for you, doing more in some areas than others.

"I have been answering these questions until I have been blue in the face and I'm afraid it is the same answer, I am going to leave it until the end of the season and see how it feels. I don't feel I am under any pressure to pull the trigger on making the decision and I know I have been given a bit of slack by Leinster because they can't replace me with a centre anyway and with the Union I've just said I need to play the Six Nations, see how I feel and I'll make the decision when the time is right. I'm not lying and I think people must be sick of this."

O'Driscoll is "confident" he can pass the required cognitive reasoning tests and prove his fitness for what could be his final Six Nations appearance against Italy having recovered from being concussed during his side's epic 13-13 draw with France last weekend.

"I've had a few situations like this in the past and am not worried about this one," he said. "Usually you know if you are going to pass a fitness test or not because there is a bit of mugginess or whatever but I have had none of that this week. We have a very strong medical set-up with Ireland and there is now way they would let a player go out if there were any questions about his ability to play."

Centre Luke Marshall has also recovered from a knock to the head while Jonathan Sexton is also set to reclaim the No.10 shirt with Paddy Jackson dropping to the bench when coach Declan Kidney names his side later today. Also back is Ulster wing Craig Gilroy, who will replace Fergus McFadden on the right wing having overcome a groin strain.

Ireland: (probable) Rob Kearney; Craig Gilroy, Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan; Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip (capt)

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