Sunday 18 March 2018

Declan Rice to reaffirm Ireland pledge despite interest from England

Declan Rice is set to commit his future to Ireland
Declan Rice is set to commit his future to Ireland
Declan Rice. Photo: Getty Images

John Fallon

Doubts over Declan Rice's commitment to the Ireland cause in the face of interest from England have subsided following positive soundings from the player's camp on his international future.

Martin O'Neill only last week cited the West Ham United 19-year-old as integral to his rebuilding project for the UEFA Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifiers but confirmation from Gareth Southgate that the Londoner was on the English FA's radar raised concerns.

Rice's allegiance to Ireland has never wavered since he declared at 14 through his late paternal grandparents, born in Cork.

Despite his homeland taking a keen interest in his future following an impressive breakthrough season, there appears to be no danger of him defecting.

It is understood that stance was reinforced in the wake of comments by the England manager. The plan remains for Rice to travel on March 19 to Turkey with O'Neill and Roy Keane for a training camp leading up to a friendly against the host nation four days later.

It is even been mooted that Rice could end the international window by taking his place in the midfield of Ireland's U-21 team for their Euro qualifier with Azerbaijan on March 27.

He has started the last four qualifiers for Noel King's side, who are strongly positioned at the midway point of the campaign behind holders Germany to push for a play-off into a first finals appearance next year.

Although a calf strain kept Rice out of Saturday's FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic, he should return for tonight's Premier League meeting with Crystal Palace, hoping to make his 20th appearance of the season.

Independent News Service

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