Declan Rice (right) received his first England call-up on Wednesday after switching allegiance from Ireland
London (AFP) - Declan Rice’s decision to switch international allegiance to England was rewarded with his first call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad on Wednesday for Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro later this month.
West Ham midfielder Rice made three international appearances for the Republic of Ireland, but all of them in friendly matches meaning he was still eligible for England.
The highly rated 20-year-old was born in London but qualified for Ireland via paternal grandparents.
However, after much deliberation, he announced last month that he would play England. His switch was ratified by FIFA last week.
“I think they are really big decisions when you are asking a player to transfer association. You’ve got to be very clear that you feel they have a future with you,” said England manager Southgate.
“That said, there were never any guarantees made to him because I think that is very important as well. You’ve got to be playing well to get in the squad, but his form has been excellent.”
Apart from calling up Rice, Southgate largely stayed loyal to the core of players who helped England reach the World Cup semi-finals last summer and have qualified for the inaugural Nations League semi-finals in June.
Eric Dier, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are included despite limited playing time at Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea respectively. Meanwhile, Leicester’s James Maddison and in-form Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse missed out.
“You could look at Fabian Delph and say he has not been playing for Manchester City, but he was our best player against Croatia (in November) so balancing all that has been difficult this time,” added Southgate.
“We have qualified for a semi-final in the summer. It would be strange to make huge changes to that squad, but we have added another young player in Declan.”
Despite Rice’s change of heart, Southgate also insisted he will not simply cap players to prevent them switching international allegiance.
Southampton and England under-21 goalkeeper Angus Gunn has been courted by Scotland, while promising Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is of Congolese descent.
“I’m not prepared to pick players just to stop the possibility of other countries picking them,” he added.
“Aaron Wan-Bissaka is playing very well, and really pushing to be in our squad. I could pick players give them a cap and stop them from playing somewhere else but I don’t think that is right.”
England squad to face the Czech Republic on March 22 and Montenegro on March 25 in Euro 2020 qualifiers:
Jack Butland (Stoke City), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell, Harry Maguire (both Leicester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones, Kyle Walker (both Manchester City), Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier (both Tottenham Hotspur), James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Dele Alli, Eric Dier, (both Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley (both Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)