Date published: Wednesday 13th February 2019 7:21
West Ham midfielder Declan Rice insists he does not expect an automatic England call-up after submitting a written request to FIFA for the transfer of his international registration from the Republic of Ireland.
Born in London, the 20-year-old qualified for the Republic of Ireland via paternal grandparents.
After playing at youth level, Rice went on to make three senior appearances, all in friendly matches during 2018, including games against France and the USA ahead of the World Cup.
However, speculation over his long-term international future mounted on the back of breaking into the West Ham first team and becoming a regular in Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season.
Rice has made 27 appearances for the Hammers in the current campaign and scored his first senior goal in the 1-0 Premier League win over Arsenal at the London Stadium on January 12.
Under FIFA rules, Rice is entitled to change allegiance as he has not represented the Republic in a senior competitive international – following in the footsteps of Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, who switched to England in 2015.
In a lengthy statement posted on his official Twitter account on Wednesday, Rice announced his intentions, having “discussed the situation with the people who mean the most to me” as well as speaking to former Republic chief Martin O’Neill, current manager Mick McCarthy and England boss Gareth Southgate.
The Football Association of Ireland also confirmed the news in a short statement, with McCarthy adding: “Good luck to him.”
Rice, however, has no guarantees of being drafted into the plans of Three Lions boss Southgate, who is preparing for both the Nations League semi-finals this summer as well as the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
“I would like to make it clear that, in requesting to transfer my national team representation, I am not taking for granted a call-up to the England squad or making any assumptions about my future international career,” Rice said.
“However, out of respect for the Republic of Ireland, I felt it was right to announce this decision now and put an end to the speculation.
“I am still only 20 years old and there is a long road ahead of me. For now, my focus remains entirely on establishing myself as a Premier League player with West Ham United and working as hard as possible to improve and be successful.
“In football, and in life, I have always tried to be completely honest and true to myself and my family at all times, and that is what I will continue to do.”
Rice maintained he was “just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection with the country”, stressing the difficulty of his choice, which was “not a clear-cut, simple selection.”
He said: “I fully accept that some Irish supporters will be disappointed by my decision, and that everyone has different opinions in regard to the rules around international representation.
“However, I hope that people can understand that I have made this decision with honesty, integrity and the full support of my family.
“My pride at wearing the Irish shirt was always 100 per cent genuine. It was a great honour for myself and my family, and something I will always cherish.”
The midfielder added: “Ultimately, it is a personal decision that I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.”