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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019

'I've spoken to him' - Jon Walters hopes 'unbelievable' Rice commits to Ireland

‘He’s a player you’d welcome with open arms, how good he is and what he can do for the country.’

Declan Rice, Jon Walters and Graham Burke celebrate in June.
Declan Rice, Jon Walters and Graham Burke celebrate in June.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IRELAND STRIKER JONATHAN Walters says he has spoken to Declan Rice and is hoping he will pledge his international future to the Boys In Green.

19-year-old Rice, who recently signed a new contract with West Ham, continues to weigh up his decision between lining out for Ireland — who he played three senior friendlies for in 2018 and climbed the underage ranks with — or England, his country of birth.

The London-born defender/midfielder qualifies to represent Ireland through his grandparents from Cork, and is free to switch allegiances until he has played in a competitive senior international fixture.

Walters, who’s currently on loan at Ipswich Town from Burnley, was commentating for Off The Ball last night and spoke following Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Liverpool at the Etihad.

He stressed that Rice is more than good enough to play at that level, before revealing that he has spoken to the player about his international future. Walters didn’t disclose how that conversation went though.

“He had a difficult start to the season,” Walters told OTB’s Nathan Murphy. “Perhaps it was a time for him to get his head down and knuckle down on being a West Ham player.

Source: Off The Ball/YouTube

“For a 19-year-old it’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He’s a very good player and one you’d welcome with open arms, how good he is and what he can do for the country. Speaking on behalf of myself, you do want him included.

“I’ve spoken to him but I’ll keep that to myself and you know what I’ve said, but a player of his quality, you want him involved. Of course we do. He’s 19, you’ve got to realise that. There’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders. It’s difficult for him.”

Walters added on Rice’s revival at the Hammers: “He’s come in and made the position his own. He’s unbelievable and every time I watch him, his composure for a 19-year-old… he’s 19, he’s played a full season. It’s his second one and he’s a stand-out player for me for West Ham.

“He gets stuck in, he does all the work that Fernandinho does there. If I was one of the big clubs, although he’s signed a new contract, he’s one player I would be looking at.”

“I think he is [good enough to get to the level of City-Liverpool]. He’s got the mentality. He signed a new contract, that won’t go to his head. He’ll be putting it down and working twice as hard.

“His composure on the ball is class, he wants it and gets it in any position. He sniffs out danger, left foot, right foot, does the unseen work, he’s good in the air and versatile.”

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne look back on a busy festive period for the provinces in this week’s Heineken Rugby Weekly.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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