Declan Rice has allowed his on-pitch performances as the conjecture and debate about his international future has intensified, but the teenager has today granted an interview to Gary Jacob of The Times. The full interview can be read here.
Rice played in three friendly games for the Republic of Ireland this year, for whom he qualifies through his grandparents. He was born in England, however, and after those games, Gareth Southgate made his move. Given England's World Cup showing and Southgate's pitch, Rice made himself unavailable for selection for Ireland's opening Uefa Nations League game with Wales, which would have tied him to Ireland for good.
Rice is still pondering as to which country he will commit, with Martin O'Neill saying this week that he remains hopeful Rice will choose Ireland and is optimistic a final decision will be reached this year.
Speaking to The Times, Rice confirmed that O'Neill has visited Rice at home in a bid to convince him to declare for Ireland, and that he is still deliberating what he will do.
Without a doubt it is not an easy decision. It is one of the hardest I will have to make in my career. Martin was excellent when he came to my house and Gareth was excellent and they both understand the position I am in. I said I just need some time.
I need to make the right decision, what is best for me and my family. Being 19, I never thought I would be in a position to make such a hard decision.
Rice says that his manager Manuel Pellegrini has told him to follow his heart, while the interview also attests to speculation that West Ham's co-owner David Gold is nudging him to England, as he has told him he could "follow in the footsteps of Bobby Moore". Rice's father Sean, however, has his Ireland caps framed and on display at home, so some hope abounds...