Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has set his sights on featuring at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and says being written off fuels his motivation to keep going.
Sexton has been his country's first-choice fly-half for the best part of a decade and says he will prove to the IRFU that he deserves a new contract whenever discussions can take place after the IRFU's performance director David Nucifora saying earlier this week that Sexton would be judged on form rather than age.
All contract negotiations have been shelved by the IRFU until after Christmas due to the financial impact of the global pandemic on the IRFU. 35-year-old Sexton missed Ireland's last two Autumn Nations Cup games with a hamstring problem, with James Ryan taking over the captaincy, but is expected to return for the final game against Scotland - the third/fourth place playoff.
"Obviously, I'd love to be playing and it was a frustrating time to pick up a niggle like that considering that at the start of the season I was fit for a lot of games," Sexton said.
"I feel good. I feel good when I'm out there on the pitch and now it's just about getting out there and performing to prove that there's more in me. I feel there is, I feel I can get to another level and the day that's not there is the day I'll walk away. There's been guys in teams over the years that have gone to World Cups at 37, 38.
"Do I think I can get there? I think I can. But at the age you're at, you've got to take it one year at a time. The big 'if' now is next year, if you do stay on and if you can keep your fitness and form.
"There's a lot to go into it but I'm still hungry, I still love the game, I still love competing, I still love training and being part of this team with Ireland and Leinster. I don't see any reason to stop.
"I'm not going to just retire because you guys (media) want me to.
"I'll keep going if I feel good and I feel hungry and I know some past players want to retire me as well but I'll crack on."