FIFA approves Rice switch from Ireland to England


ZURICH: West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is free to play for England after world governing body FIFA confirmed his switch from Ireland.

The highly rated 20-year-old, who was born in London but qualified for Ireland via his paternal grandparents, considers himself “to be of mixed nationality” and played three times for Ireland.

But because they were friendlies it left the door open for him to change allegiance and last month he announced his intention to do so, a move that has now been ratified by FIFA.

“FIFA can now confirm that the change of association of Declan Rice from the Republic of Ireland to England has been approved,” said a spokesman for the world governing body.

After representing Ireland at youth level, Rice went on to make three senior appearances last year, including games against France and the United States ahead of the World Cup.

However, speculation over his long-term international future mounted after he became a West Ham regular under Manuel Pellegrini this season.

In completing the switch, Rice follows in the footsteps of Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, who made the same move to England in 2016.

“My pride at wearing the Irish shirt was always 100 per cent genuine,” Rice said in a statement last month. “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.”

After gaining FIFA approval it now seems likely that Rice, who has started every one of the 26 Premier League matches he has featured in this season, scoring two goals, will be fast-tracked into the England set-up.

England manager Gareth Southgate names his squad for this month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro next week.