Declan Rice declares for England over Republic of Ireland in huge blow to Irish football

Declan Rice declares for England over Republic of Ireland in huge blow to Irish football

WEST HAM footballer Declan Rice has pledged his international allegiance to England over the Republic of Ireland after several months of speculation.

London-born Rice, 20, played three times for Ireland in friendlies under former manager Martin O'Neill, having played for his Corkonian grandparents' nation since under-16 level.

Back in September, the defensive midfielder asked for time out to decide his international future as winning a competitive cap for the Boys in Green would have tied him to the country for the remainder of his career.

"This has been an extremely difficult decision," Rice tweeted in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

"I have equal respect and love for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection.

"Ultimately it is a personal decision that I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.

"I fully accept that some Irish supporters will be disappointed … My pride at wearing the Irish shirt was always 100% genuine.”

In a statement released via the FAI, Ireland boss Mick McCarthy shared his reaction to the news.

"Declan rang me today and said he has decided to give it a go with England. Good luck to him," he said.

The switch of allegiances represents a devastating blow to the future of Irish football, with Rice widely regarded as one of the best players of his age in the world.

The versatile footballer has made an impressive 59 appearances for the Hammers since his debut in 2017, and recently scored his first goal as a professional footballer in a 1-0 home win against Arsenal at London Stadium.

Able to play both in the centre of defence and midfield, Rice will be confident of a place in the Three Lions squad in the near future – especially given Eric Dier's inconsistent efforts as manager Gareth Southgate's only natural defensive midfielder.

Former England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker poked fun at the news on Twitter, writing: "He's one of our own....He's one of our own...Declan Rice....he’s one of our own."

See all the reaction below: