Wednesday 24 April 2019

Rice 'bursting with pride' after first England call-up

West Ham's Declan Rice pictured during England training. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
West Ham's Declan Rice pictured during England training. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine Sportsdesk

West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is determined to look forward after earning a first England call-up, which had him "bursting with pride" and feeling better from illness.

The 20-year-old was named in Gareth Southgate's squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers after being granted FIFA clearance to switch international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland.

Rice (below) had appeared for Ireland's youth teams and also won three senior caps, but they were all in friendlies, which meant he was clear for a change of representation.

It remains to be seen whether Southgate will throw the midfielder into action when the Three Lions kick off their Group A campaign against the Czech Republic at Wembley before heading to Montenegro. Rice, who was last week named Ireland's Young Player of the Year, will take whatever opportunity he is given to impress following a drawn-out international transfer.

"You can't describe it. I just couldn't believe it," Rice said in an interview with the English FA, broadcast via social media channels. "I was ill the day last week that the squad got announced. My dad came home and we were watching the TV and it came up that I was in the squad.

"I was just bursting with pride. It's everything that you've wanted to work for as a kid and it has come true. The call-up is one of the best feelings you're ever going to feel."

Southgate maintains Rice's club form warranted his first England call-up, but offered no guarantees.

"It was a really tough decision. I think everyone knows my situation with the Republic of Ireland. I've played there in the youth set-up, but I had to make a decision that was best for me," Rice said. "As you can hear, I am English, I am from England and it was really good playing for Ireland. Now I'm just really looking forward to pulling on the England shirt."

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