Did Declan Rice make the right call choosing England?

England's newest lion

On Wednesday afternoon, West Ham United youngster Declan Rice finally made his decision regarding his international future, pledging allegiance to England over Ireland.

Rice, 20, has already earned three caps for the Boys in Green, all of which came in friendlies under previous manager Martin O’Neill, meaning he was still eligible to switch to the country of his birth before playing a competitive game.

His impressive performances have lead to interest from the FA about him coming to play for the Three Lions, with Gareth Southgate a keen admirer of Rice and has been to watch him play this season.

After hearing of England’s interest, a decision was then there to be made and the player took his time before eventually making his selection. Rice’s call hasn’t been received too well by those in Ireland, particularly from former internationals who have reacted pretty angrily to his decision to commit to England despite already playing for Ireland, namely Kevin Kilbane.

"If you’re a 'proud Englishman' then why play for us in the first place?," Kilbane said on Wednesday night.

"I can't understand his decision to play for us in the first place."The line that stands out for me is, 'I'm a proud Englishman' if you're a proud Englishman, don't come and play for us.

"It's been dragged on now for five-six months since he decided against taking the call-up for the Nations League. It was done then. I wouldn't have taken the decision to call him up again. He'd had his head turned. It was done."

Was it the right call?

Whichever side of the fence he sat on, Rice was going to face criticism from some quarters and must’ve been prepared for the backlash that was always set to come his way in the aftermath of announcing it.

It feels like Kilbane is throwing stones in a glass house to question the decision for an English-born player to play for Ireland, with plenty of players over the years switching to play for them after being unable to break into the England squad.

Kilbane himself was born in Preston, while the likes of Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Harry Arter, Callum Robinson and Scott Hogan, all members of their most recent squad, were born in England.From a football standpoint, the 20-year-old could’ve virtually guaranteed himself 100 caps for the Irish national team, perhaps becoming captain along the way after being touted as their brightest young prospect.

Yet the current state of Irish football isn’t particularly promising, with the team finishing bottom of their Nations League group featuring Denmark and Wales, while also failing to score in each of their last four internationals. Now they have brought back Mick McCarthy as manager for a second stint, who will oversee their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and potentially tournament appearance before Stephen Kenny takes over.

There is something of an identity crisis with the Irish team at this moment in time, with things ultimately going stale at the end of Martin O’Neill’s time in charge of the national side alongside Roy Keane.

On the face of it there is also a lack of quality in the Ireland team, with just 10 of their most recent 23-man squad playing in the Premier League. The majority of players are based in the Championship or lower, with captain Seamus Coleman being their best player at this moment in time.

Irish fans and players will certainly be disappointed with the decision, but given the current state of affairs with the national team it's no real surprise that Rice has decided to switch allegiances whilst the rules allow for him to do so.

Declan Rice

Exciting future

As for England, there is a real buzz and interest about the national team once again following their efforts at the 2018 World Cup. A squad with exciting players such as Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and John Stones is being built, while there are plenty of exciting youth prospects coming through as well.

Jadon Sancho is the pick of the bunch having already established himself in the senior squad, while the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Ben Chilwell and Harry Winks have all featured under Southgate since the World Cup. Add to that uncapped young talents including Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi and there is real reason to be optimistic about England’s future.

Rice can certainly be a part of that, having shown an abundance of ability and potential for West Ham this season, establishing himself at the heart of their midfield. However, its yet to be seen whether he ultimately becomes known as a midfielder or centre-back throughout his senior career, though his versatility will certainly aid him at international level.

Sancho-England

What Rice will also have considered is the current lack of top defensive midfield options available to Southgate, who predominantly used Jordan Henderson in that role during the World Cup. He also has Eric Dier and Winks for that role, whilst also giving Nathaniel Chalobah his first cap against Spain, but it is a position that is certainly up for grabs for any player that can make it their own.

If he develops into a centre-back then that too is a role where he can strengthen England’s options, which aren’t particularly strong outside of Stones, Gomez and Harry Maguire.

Barring injury and a dramatic loss of form, Rice certainly has the ability to establish himself as a regular figure in the England setup and is betting on himself to do so. He easily could’ve stuck with Ireland and remained an ever present in their squad, but this decision represents the ambition he has in his career.

West Ham will just be hoping that they too can match his ambition at club level and keep him in claret and blue for the foreseeable future.


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