England manager Gareth Southgate has been discussing the possibility of snatching Declan Rice from under Ireland’s nose.
The 19-year-old has risen to prominence over the past 18 months, earning rave reviews for his performances in defence and midfield in the Premier League with West Ham and earning a call-up to the provisional Ireland senior squad for last summer’s friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay.
While Rice has played for Ireland at youth level since 2015, Southgate has been discussing the idea of trying to convince him to switch allegiance to the Three Lions.
“We are aware of him and aware of his situation.
“We are always looking for players and he is somebody whom we know with our technical department.
“We are across every young player and, of course, there are plenty of young players with dual nationality. Wales have several players who have been in our system and who have got caps. It’s more one for Dan Ashworth as technical director than for me as senior manager.”
via the TImes
Rice, although born in London, qualifies to play for Ireland through his Cork-native grandparents, and while he is currently part of the Ireland U21 side aiming to reach next year’s European Championships, he is widely tipped to make a breakthrough in Martin O’Neill’s full national side in 2018.
This development will, of course, bring up memories of Jack Grealish for Ireland fans. The English-born Aston Vila playmaker similarly played for Ireland at youth level before being convinced by then-manager Roy Hodgson to switch to England in 2015. Although he went on to win a handful of U21 caps, the 22-year-old is yet to make a senior appearance for England.
With the Boys in Green not in competitive action until their UEFA Nations League game against Wales in September, O’Neill will have along time to wait before he can lock Rice down by capping him in that fixture. As such, naming him in the squad for the friendly against Turkey in March, and giving him his first taste of senior international football, should be a priority for the Ireland boss.