Wednesday 20 March 2019

Versatile Rice not fazed by England talk

Declan committed to Ireland despite 'crap' on social media

RICE COOL: Ireland’s Declan Rice in possession as the USA’s Tyler Adams closes in during Saturday night’s friendly at the Aviva
RICE COOL: Ireland’s Declan Rice in possession as the USA’s Tyler Adams closes in during Saturday night’s friendly at the Aviva Stadium
HEADS UP: Declan Rice wins an aerial duel with Tyler Adams of the USA
West Ham chairman David Gold

Declan Rice says he's fed up of the "crap" surrounding any possible defection to England as he remains committed to the Irish cause.

But Martin O'Neill says he will only be completely comfortable until the West Ham star, named as man-of-the-match for Ireland in Saturday's 2-1 win over the USA, has played a competitive international at senior level.

West Ham co-owner David Gold stirred things up last month when he said the Hammers' new manager could transform Rice (19) into an England star, prompting Roy Keane to reiterate that the player "is Irish".

And now Rice has had his say. "I don't read too much into things and look at social media. It's all a load of crap to be honest, I don't read too much about it," he said.


"I'm just focused on playing and enjoying my football. There are two games in September and I'm looking forward to them."

Asked about Gold's remarks, he replied: "It's one of those things, he's just come out and said it. I'm not going to take too much from it. I'm here and I'm playing for Ireland."

O'Neill said: "Until he's actually played competitive football for us at senior level, you can never say anything is across the line. It's never been my nature to do that. But I think he genuinely wants to play for us. And I hope that will be the case."

Rice, meanwhile, is not remotely fazed by the suggestion that he is an Ireland captain in waiting.

Retiring stalwart John O'Shea has already seen enough to tip him to wear the armband one day. However, having handled his introduction to the big stage with the minimum of fuss, the West Ham defender is taking the acclaim in his stride.

Asked about O'Shea's comments, he said: "He's been at the top of the game and played with some top, top players. To hear that from him, I don't like to take it on too much, but it's nice to hear. I've had a little joke with him.

"Maybe one day I do see myself as a future captain because I do have it in me to tell people and order people around."

Rice was handed his debut in Turkey in March, initially lining up at the back and then moving into a midfield role, and he was asked to do the reverse in much more illustrious company in last Monday night's 2-0 defeat in France.

He played as a holding midfielder in Saturday evening's 2-1 victory over the United States and impressed once again to illustrate a potential which has left manager O'Neill believing he has a genuine talent on his hands.

However, Rice admits he could not have envisaged what has happened to him in the last 10 months.

He said: "Even at the start of the Premier League season, I couldn't have said I would go on to play that many games. It's just down to the hard work of both managers that I've had at club level who believed in me.

"Martin believed in me here too and the players have also put trust in me, giving me the ball and letting me express myself. I've really enjoyed it and I can't wait to do it more."

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