Sunday 19 August 2018

Declan Rice rules out international U-turn as he reveals he is 'fully focused' on Ireland

 

Republic of Ireland's Declan Rice. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Declan Rice. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Declan Rice has ruled out a U-turn on his international football future and confirmed that he is committed to playing for Ireland.

The 19-year-old is in Turkey with Martin O'Neill's squad and should make his senior debut in Friday's friendly in Antalya. That would not tie down the London-born player if England came calling, and Gareth Southgate said in February that Rice was on their radar.

But the West Ham player says there has been no approach from the FA and suggested they would be wasting their time anyway as his presence for this Irish gathering is indicative of where he sees himself for the long term.

"There's no decision to be made. I'm here now with Ireland at the moment and I've been called up by Martin. And if I didn't want to play for Ireland, I wouldn't be here," said Rice, who was named U-19 Player of the Year on Sunday night, and will play for the U-21 side in next Tuesday's qualifying match with Azerbaijan after his return from Turkey.

"I'm really looking forward to this week and I'm looking forward to getting to know the boys better. I haven't had a call from anyone at the FA. Not at all. England have never wanted me at underage level, it's always been Ireland. I haven't had a call from anyone in the FA yet."

Asked directly if such a call might change his mind, Rice replied: "No, not at all. Not at all. I'm fully focused on playing with Ireland.

"We've got an important U-21 game coming up and if I think about that stuff too much, it will start to take me off my football. I let my dad deal with that.

"When your country comes calling and you get a chance to put on that green shirt, you're going to jump at it. My nan and granddad are from Cork. They sadly passed away, but they'll be looking down on me very proud.

"My family are very happy that I'm playing with Ireland. It's my dad's side and he's really, really proud. He wants me to play for Ireland and I'm really happy to play for Ireland."

Irish Independent

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