Friday 19 July 2019

'It's one of the hardest decisions I will have to make in my career' - Declan Rice

Declan Rice has yet to decide where his international future lies
Declan Rice has yet to decide where his international future lies
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

Declan Rice has admitted that choosing between Ireland and England is the "hardest decision he has ever had to make" as he continues to ponder his international future.

The West Ham youngster has played three senior international friendlies for Ireland having being brought up through the Irish underage system. He qualifies for Ireland through his dad's parents but hasn't featured for Martin O'Neill's side since last June's victory over the USA as he weighs up his international future with his birth country England keen to land the services of the 19-year-old.

Martin O'Neill earlier this week said Rice has yet to make up his mind, despite recent reports suggesting he has chosen England.

Speaking for the first time since he put his Ireland career on hold, Rice said that both managers impressed him when they sat down to discuss his options, adding that he needs more time before committing to either nation.

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"Without doubt it is not an easy decision," Rice told the Times.

"It's one of the hardest decisions I will have to make in my career. Martin (O'Neill) was excellent when he came to my house and Gareth (Southgate) was excellent with me and they both understand the position I am in.

"I said I just need some time as if I am going to be playing for the rest of my career I need to make the right decision, what is best for me and my family.

"They were both great to be fair. I told both managers that I am just focusing on playing for West Ham at the moment as that was on the back of a good season.

"Being 19 and playing as many games as I have, I never thought I would be in a position to make such a hard decision."

Earlier this week, O'Neill dismissed the suggestion that he should have capped Rice in the World Cup qualifier with Moldova 13 months ago in order to tie him to Ireland.

"The Moldova game at home? Where we were desperate to win the game? It's kind of crazy," said O'Neill.

"You have to merit getting into the side. I have no qualms on that. You are trying to win football matches. If you want to pick up on that... I will end up capping 15-year-olds just so they will play for Ireland for the next 15 years.

"That had not entered my head at the time. If those are my thoughts going into competitive matches... that I should be thinking of capping someone for further down the line. You shouldn't be doing that.

"I wouldn't have just sneaked him onto the pitch because he would have been aware of it. He might have thought: 'By the way, I don't want to be included here at all because it might affect me'. I think Declan must have had these thoughts (switch to England) in his head for some time."

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