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'He is with Ireland at the moment and that decision has to fall to him'

England manager Gareth Southgate says he will leave Declan Rice to make his own decision about his international future.

ENGLAND MANAGER GARETH Southgate admits Declan Rice has a ‘really difficult decision’ to make over his international future, but won’t put pressure on the 19-year-old to declare for the country of his birth.

AFC Wimbledon v West Ham United - Carabao Cup - Second Round - Cherry Red Records Stadium Rice played 90 minutes for West Ham against Wimbledon on Tuesday evening. Source: EMPICS Sport

Rice has found himself at the centre of an international tug-of-war this week after making himself unavailable for Ireland’s upcoming Uefa Nations League game against Wales to consider his future.

The West Ham defender/midfielder, who has represented Ireland underage teams since U16 level and has won three caps for the senior team in friendly internationals, is still permitted to switch allegiances under Fifa rules.

As he has not played a competitive game for Ireland, the London-born teenager can decide to represent England, and despite previously suggesting he is committed to the Boys in Green, is now reportedly weighing up his options after overtures from the FA. 

When asked about Rice during his England squad announcement this afternoon, Southgate said: ”There are so many dual nationality players and he is a good young player. He has a really difficult decision.

“There is a lot of pressure on him and I am conscious there is spotlight on him.

“He is with Ireland at the moment and as much as we think he is a very good player, that decision has to fall to him.” 

England Squad Announcement - St George's Park Gareth Southgate speaking at this afternoon press conference in London. Source: Aaron Chown

Rice has been part of the Ireland underage set-up for a number of years and after coming through the age grades with the U16, U17, U19 and U21 national teams, made his senior debut against Turkey in March.

He made further appearances against France and USA in Ireland’s summer friendlies, before declaring himself unavailable for the upcoming fixtures against Wales and Poland at the start of this week.

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Ryan Bailey

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