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'It's always going to blow over. I am laid-back': Declan Rice moving past allegiance controversy

The Three Lions are set to face the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the Nations League.

Rice made his England debut against Montenegro in March.
Rice made his England debut against Montenegro in March.

DECLAN RICE SAID he is content to move past the recent allegiance controversy which has surrounded the West Ham midfielder, with the 20-year-old now focussed on England’s Uefa Nations League semi-final this week.

The midfielder said he is prepared to play “dirty” in England’s bid for glory, with Barcelona new boy Frenkie de Jong needing to be contained in a meeting with the Netherlands.

Gareth Southgate’s side have a clash with the Dutch to take in on Thursday. A semi-final contest against Ronald Koeman’s team comes 12 months on from reaching the last four of the 2018 World Cup.

England are determined to go at least one step further in their latest pursuit of silverware and will bend the rules if required.

Rice could be given the chance to do just that against the Netherlands, with any role for him in an eagerly-anticipated fixture set to pitch him into midfield combat with De Jong.

The West Ham man told reporters of a potential duel with a player heading to Camp Nou in a €75 million deal: “He is a fantastic player. I am relishing the chance to put myself up against him.

“You cannot give him too much respect on the pitch because that is when he starts to dictate the game.

“You have got to be dirty, up in his face and try and disrupt him from playing his game. I am sure as a team we will do well to stop the Dutch.

“This will be, if I am involved, the biggest game of my life. We are in the semi-finals against a great side.”

England v Czech Republic - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying - Group A - Wembley Stadium Rice and Czech Republic's Matej Vydra battle for possession at Wembley. Source: Steven Paston

Rice enjoyed a productive 2018-19 campaign at club level, sparking talk of interest ahead of the summer transfer window, and is looking forward to taking another step up in class.

He added: “With the season I have had, most people would have seen that for a young age I have done really well.

“But this is another level. You are playing against world-class opposition and you need to be on your game.”

Rice has answered all of the questions asked of him so far, with the 20-year-old shrugging off the furore which surrounded his decision to switch international allegiance from Ireland to England.

He said: “Most people would have thought that was tough to take on, with loads of papers in Ireland writing about me and Irish players speaking about me.

“But it is always going to blow over and I am so laid-back, I do not really take much notice of it.

“I am just focused on what I have got to do for club and country. I have had to be mentally strong and I have been like that since I was a kid.”

Rice took in 38 appearances for West Ham in the season just gone, while collecting his first two caps for England in Euro 2020 qualification games against the Czech Republic and Montenegro. 

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