West Ham midfielder Declan Rice has announced he has decided to submit a written request to FIFA for the transfer of his international registration from the Republic of Ireland to England.
The 20-year-old was born in London, but qualified for the Republic of Ireland via paternal grandparents and after playing at youth level went on to make three senior appearances, all in friendly matches.
However, after breaking into the West Ham first team and becoming a regular in Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season, Rice has chosen to switch his allegiance to England.
Rice said in a lengthy statement posted on his official Twitter account on Wednesday: “This afternoon I telephoned both Mick McCarthy and Gareth Southgate to inform them of my decision to submit a written request to FIFA for the transfer of my international registration from the Republic of Ireland to
“This has been an extremely difficult decision and, in all honesty, not one I ever expected to be making at this stage of my career. So much has happened, so quickly, in the past couple of years.”
The Football Association of Ireland also confirmed the news in a short statement.
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy said: “Declan rang me today and said he has decided to give it a go with England. Good luck to him.”
Rice said he had “discussed the situation with the people who mean the most to me” as well as speaking to former Republic boss Martin O’Neill, McCarthy and England manager Gareth Southgate.
“I am truly grateful for the support I have received in leading to this decision,” the West Ham player added.
“Like so many people around the world, I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I am a proud Englishman, having been born and raised in London. However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection with the country.
“I have equal respect and love for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection. Particularly not for a young lad who never dreamed of being in this position.
“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.”
All of Rice’s three senior Ireland appearances came during 2018, including games against France and the USA ahead of the World Cup.
Under FIFA rules Rice is entitled to switch 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.
Rice added: “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.”
Despite asking to now be eligible for England, the West Ham player said he was “not taking for granted a call-up to the England squad or making any assumptions about my future international career”.
Rice has made some 27 appearances for the Hammers this season, and scored his first senior goal in the 1-0 Premier League win over Arsenal at the London Stadium on January 12.
The midfielder added the decision had been announced to end speculation as he concentrates on maintaining his development.
“I am still only 20 years old and there is a long road ahead of me,” he added. “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.”