DECLAN RICE’S decision to pledge his international future to England has sparked strong reactions from several former Republic of Ireland favourites.
The West Ham midfielder had played for Ireland since under-16 level, having first qualified to represent the national side through his grandparents, who are from Cork.
Rice also picked up three senior caps for the Republic, playing for Ireland in friendlies against USA, Turkey and France.
However, the 20-year-old has now opted to play for England, confirming his decision in a lengthy statement on Twitter, writing, at one point, "I am a proud Englishman.”
— Declan Rice (@_DeclanRice) February 13, 2019
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy’s response was typically short and to the point.
"Declan rang me today and said he has decided to give it a go with England,” McCarthy said in a short statement published on the FAI website. "Good luck to him."
Several former Republic of Ireland stars, who previously played under McCarthy, have since spoken out about Rice’s decision.
Kevin Kilbane was quick to take to Twitter with the simple question, directed at Rice: “If you’re a “proud Englishman” then why play for us in the first place?”
If you’re a “proud Englishman” then why play for us in the first place?
— Kevin Kilbane (@kdkilbane77) February 13, 2019
The retired midfielder and pundit reiterated his criticism during an appearance on Virgin Media Sport.
"If you’re a 'proud Englishman' then why play for us in the first place?," Kilbane said. "I can't understand his decision to play for us in the first place.
"The line that stands out for me is, 'I'm a proud Engishman' if you're a proud Englishman, don't come and play for us.
"It's been dragged on now for five-six months since he decided against taking the call-up for the Nations League.
"It was done then. I wouldn't have taken the decision to call him up again. He'd had his head turned. It was done."
"If you're a proud Englishman, don't come and play for us."
"I would've taken that line out of the statement."
"It makes a mockery of our system."
"He's felt at 16 that he wouldn't get called up for England."@kdkilbane77 has strong opinions on the Declan Rice saga.#VMSport pic.twitter.com/S33Uiw1Zl8
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 13, 2019
He wasn’t alone in expressed frustration at Rice’s decision.
Fellow ex-international Mark Kinsella was similarly critical of the circumstances surrounding the midfielder’s England switch.
“It is disappointing that we can let a lad go through the whole youth set-up, play three times for the seniors, and lose him,” Kinsella told RTÉ Radio.
“Gareth Southgate put a better case towards him playing for England. If he was injury free, he’d be a mainstay of Irish football for the next 10 years.”
Fellow Ireland star and ex-West Ham man Gary Breen described the decision as a “massive loss” to Newstalk’s Off The Ball but felt the move “proved he’s not Irish”.
“I feel hoodwinked because I bought into everything he said. I listened to how eloquent he was and how much he made me believe it meant to play for Ireland,” Breen said.
“Now he’s saying different things. He didn’t seem to be a ‘proud Englishman’ when singing the Irish national anthem.”
"At 18 when you sign that first professional contract you should declare what your nationality is and go from there" - Gary Breen gives his take on Declan Rice declaring for England. #DeclanRice #TonightVMTV pic.twitter.com/ytQY5BQOFz
— TonightVMTV (@TonightVMTV) February 14, 2019
Andy Reid, meanwhile, doesn’t want the Ireland setup to dwell on Rice’s decision.
“We should move on and forget about him,” the former Nottingham Forest favourite said.
England are next in action against the Czech Republic in their first full qualifier for Euro 2020 and Rice is expected to earn a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Ireland meanwhile travel to Gibraltar in a qualifier they are expected to win with ease.