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Duff: We can't afford to tell Declan Rice to 'go do one' - our players aren't good enough

Damien Duff believes Ireland should swallow their pride and welcome Declan Rice back should he turn down England’s advances.

DAMIEN DUFF BELIEVES Ireland can’t afford to simply write off Declan Rice as a might-have-been in light of the West Ham youngster’s decision to weigh up his international options following an approach by England.

Rice, who has represented Ireland from U16 level onwards and has three friendly caps for the senior team, was omitted from Martin O’Neill’s squad for the upcoming fixtures versus Wales and Poland as he ‘deliberates’ over his international future.

The 19-year-old was born in London but qualifies for Ireland through Cork grandparents. Speaking on RTÉ, Duff admitted that as much as he’d personally like to tell Rice where to go, he feels Ireland are in no position to give up on a player with such a high ceiling.

“Listen, we’re a very proud nation. Do I want to tell him to ‘go do one’ and go play for England? Of course I do, but we can’t! We don’t have good enough players, we don’t have a good enough team, we don’t have a good enough squad,” said Duff.

We have to let him make up his decision. He’s a young boy, he was born in London, so let’s be honest – he is English!

“We’ve benefitted many times over the years”, Duff continued, “and in recent years from Northern Ireland.

Could it have been handled better? Yeah, but he’s a kid. He’s a kid! He has an agent in his ear, he has David Gold in his ear. It’s better for West Ham for him to be an England international because he’s more expensive to sell on. It’s better for his agent because he’ll make the agent more money. Declan Rice will make more money – albeit, I think he’s going to make enough money from his career [in any case].

“It’s disappointing,” said Duff. “He’s put pressure on himself with the way it’s panned out. If he comes back and plays for Ireland, everybody’s going to be looking at his performances.

“If he does go to England, listen, good luck to him – I don’t think he’ll play. If he comes here, I think he’ll play a million per cent for Ireland; we can build a team around him and I think it will be forgotten about because he’ll put in man-of-the-match performances like he has done.”

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Duff added:

I won’t name any names, here, but I used to play with a player – for 40 or 50 caps he was with me – and I remember we all caught him rapid singing the English national anthem. Did we have a problem with it? Yeah. But I still wouldn’t change it because he brought a lot to the Irish team for, I dunno, five, six, seven, eight years.

“You won’t get the name out of me, but he obviously wanted to play for England, he played for Ireland, and he brought an awful lot of happiness to our country.”

Declan Rice waves to the crowd Declan Rice waves to the crowd following Ireland's friendly win over the USA at Lansdowne Road Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

When asked if he would have any problem with Rice’s return to the Ireland fold should he wind up leaning in that direction, Duff reiterated that the West Ham prodigy’s impact on the future of the national team is potentially too great to be sniffed at.

“We’d have to welcome him back with open arms,” he said. “He’d be potentially a future Ireland captain, our best player: we’d have to welcome him back.

“He’s a young boy, he’s 19, he’s still a baby. Let him make his decision, if he comes back we welcome him and [wish him] good luck with his career.”

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