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West Ham's Declan Rice opts to play for England

PUBLISHED: 16:41 13 February 2019

West Ham United's Declan Rice during the Premier League match at The Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth.

West Ham United's Declan Rice during the Premier League match at The Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth.

PA Wire/PA Images

After three games for the Republic of Ireland, Declan switches allegiance

Republic of Ireland's Declan Rice and Israel's Ameer Nassar battle for the ball during the 2019 UEFA Under 21 Qualifying Group Five match at the Tallaght Stadium, Dublin.Republic of Ireland's Declan Rice and Israel's Ameer Nassar battle for the ball during the 2019 UEFA Under 21 Qualifying Group Five match at the Tallaght Stadium, Dublin.

West Ham youngster Declan Rice has finally opted to play his international football for England rather than the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old defensive midfielder has played three times for Ireland, but all in non-competitive games and so it opened the door for him to switch allegiances.

It was a badly kept secret that England boss Gareth Southgate was looking to bring the Hammer into the fold, but the maturity of Rice has shone through as he has taken plenty of time to ponder his decision.

But in a statement on his twitter site today, he confirmed his intentions.

Liverpool's Adam Lallana (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the London Stadium.Liverpool's Adam Lallana (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the London Stadium.

“This afternoon I telephoned both Mick McCarthy and Gareth Southgate to inform them of my decision to submit a written request to FIFA for the transfer of my international registration from the Republic of Ireland to England,” he said.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision and, in all honesty, not one I ever expected to be making at this stage of my career.

‘So much has happened, so quickly, in the past couple of years, from progressing through the West Ham United Academy to making my Premier League debut at the age of 18 in May 2017 and then being named in a full international squad just two days later.

“In recent weeks and months, I have discussed the situation with the people who mean the most to me. My parents, my family, my girlfriend and my closest friends.

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice in action during the Premier League match at London Stadium.Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice in action during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

“I have also spoken to Martin O’Neill and Mick McCarthy, Gareth Southgate and to friends and colleagues within the game whose opinion I respect.

“I am truly grateful for the support I have received in leading to this decision.

He continued: “Like so many people around the world, I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I am a proud Englishman, having been born and raised in London.

“However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection with the country.

“I have equal respect and love for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection. Particularly not for a young lad who never dreamed of being in this position.

“Ultimately, it is a personal decision that I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.”

Rice had some words for the Ireland supporters who were hoping that he would stick with them.

“I fully accept that some Irish supporters will be disappointed by my decision, and that everyone has different opinions in regard to the rules around international representation.

“However, I hope that people can understand that I have made this decision with honesty, integrity and the full support of my family.

“I would like to thank Mick McCarthy, Martin O’Neill, all of the coaching staff and everyone associated with the FA of Ireland (with special thanks to Mark O’Toole), not only for their support and understanding throughout this period, but for the part they have played in my development as a young player.

“My pride at wearing the Irish shirt was always 100 per cent genuine. It was a great honour for myself and my family, and something I will always cherish.”

Rice was also quick to assert that he did not expect to be an automatic choice in an England squad that includes Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph in the defensive midfield positions.

“I would also like to make it clear that, in requesting to transfer my national team representation, I am not taking for granted a call-up to the England squad or making any assumptions about my future international career.

“However, out of respect for the Republic of Ireland, I felt it was right to announce this decision now and put an end to the speculation.

“I am still only 20 years old and there is a long road ahead of me. For now, my focus remains entirely on establishing myself as a Premier League player with West Ham United and working as hard as possible to improve and be successful.

“In football, and in life, I have always tried to be completely honest and true to myself and my family at all times, and that is what I will continue to do.”

Ireland boss Mick McCarthy was characteristically succinct when asked about Rice’s decision: “Declan rang me today and said he has decided to give it a go with England. Good luck to him.”

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