Saturday 17 November 2018

Ireland's Declan Rice responds to West Ham owner's comments about playing for England

Declan Rice is ignoring David Gold’s comments. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Declan Rice is ignoring David Gold’s comments. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Colin Young

Declan Rice's reaction to the Gold dust emanating from West Ham's owner is to ignore it. He is an Ireland international and here to prove that. Confirmation in competition is a formality, not a choice.

Roy Keane's reaction is enough to end the matter, but as he prepares to add to his first cap earned in Turkey, Rice was forced to address an issue which, to him, should not be an issue.

Asked if he heard David Gold's assertion that Rice would be a future England regular, the teenager said: "Yeah, it was all over Twitter. He's just come out and said it on the radio. That's what he believes. I'm here today with the Ireland national squad focusing on the two games to prove myself to Martin [O'Neill] and Roy that I can play well for Ireland.

"My phone got bombarded with messages saying 'have you seen this?' He's done an interview on transfers and it was way off-topic to come out and say 'Declan Rice for England' when I'm here with Ireland. He knows that I play for Ireland so it's one of them where I just forget about it. I've come here to enjoy myself."

And to work, to play for his country. Rice returned to Dublin last week after registering his first season as a Premier League regular with the Hammers, mainly playing as a central defender in a back three under David Moyes, although he has also featured in midfield.

The second season starts with a new manager, Manuel Pellegrini, and a regular place under the former Manchester City boss would help confirm his emergence as a player who has the potential to match John O'Shea's contribution to Ireland.

O'Neill can see the 19-year-old at the centre of a squad capable of qualifying for the World Cup Finals in Qatar, and Rice is clearly looking at a future in green. He wants to qualify for the under 21 Euros next season, and can't wait for competitive senior action in the autumn, if it comes.

Tomorrow night in Paris will be a tough test but Rice has set out to catch the eye in training to take on a French side which will be among the favourites to claim the world crown in Russia next month.

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He said: "There's some massive names there. I played against [Olivier] Giroud and [Paul] Pogba. But then you've [Antoine] Griezmann and [Kylian] Mbappe. These are the players you come up against if you want to be the best in the world. You've got to test yourself against the best to know you are the best.

"At the beginning of the season I was talking about going on loan to a League One or Championship club and then I had a good pre-season and, all of a sudden, Slaven Bilic gave me my chance and I was with the first team.

"I was grateful for the opportunity. I was playing well which obviously granted me my first-team place here. Martin thought I was playing well and couldn't leave me out because I was playing so well. I was with the 21s as well. I can't really believe how quick I've progressed.

"But I know I'm not the finished article, that's the good thing. I'm only so young, being around Roy, [Shane] Duffy, [Seamus] Coleman who are top, top professionals, Roy, who's an icon, and you're learning every day. Even if he has a go at you, you've got to take it because he's been there and done it all and I think that's important for a young player, to learn and progress.

"If he sees something different to you, by making a pass or if you didn't defend the ball properly, he'll tell you how it is. I think that's good - you're learning every time you step on to the training pitch."

France v Ireland

RTÉ 2, tomorrow, 8.0

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