Declan Rice: West Ham starlet should NOT be allowed to play for England, says Dean Saunders – ‘Once you play for Ireland, you’re Irish!’

dec debate

Former Wales international insists players should not be allowed to switch nations once you make a senior appearance, whether it’s in a friendly or not…

Dean Saunders has criticised midfielder Declan Rice for his decision to switch his allegiance from Republic of Ireland to England.

After months of speculation, West Ham starlet Rice confirmed on Wednesday he has pledged his international future to the Three Lions – despite the 20-year-old making three senior appearances in a green shirt.

Rice in action for Ireland in a friendly against France in May 2018

Rice in action for Ireland in a friendly against France in May 2018

Rice was born and raised in London, coming through the ranks at Chelsea and West Ham, but he chose to play for Ireland at youth level having qualified through his Cork-native grandparents.

He made 20 appearances from Under-16 to Under-21 level, before being handed his senior debut in 2018 against Turkey.

He went on to play a further two times for the Boys in Green, against USA and France, but as none of the matches were competitive fixtures, he was still eligible to switch his allegiance under FIFA rules.

Rice, one of West Ham’s standout performers this season and one of the Premier League brightest talents, said his decision was ‘a personal one I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future’.

He also said he considers himself to be of ‘mixed nationality’, describing himself as ‘a proud Englishman, but just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage’, and insisted the pride he felt when wearing the Republic shirt ‘was always 100 per cent genuine’.

Sports Breakfast host Ally McCoist said he doesn’t think Rice has done anything wrong.

But former Wales international Saunders disagrees, saying that there is no way he should be allowed to switch to England having already played for the Ireland team.

“Pulling the shirt on and playing for your country… it should be the proudest moment of your career every time,” Saunders said on talkSPORT.

“It’s not a career move. You’re Welsh, you’re Scottish, you’re Irish, you play for your country.

“He’s played for Ireland, hasn’t he. That’s it. That should be it.

“He’s on about making a decision – he’s already made the decision! The minute you pull the green shirt on and run on the pitch, he’s made your decision.

“Once you turn up to play for Ireland and you put the shirt on, you’re Irish! You play for Ireland!

“You can’t after three games say, ‘I’m going to play for someone else’. You have made your decision already, you can’t make another decision.

“You’ve committed yourself to Ireland. Once you pull on the shirt and run on the pitch, that’s it!”

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