Declan Rice To Captain England Against Belgium

Declan Rice is set to wear the captain’s armband on his 53th international appearance when England face Belgium on Tuesday.

Fittingly, it is Rice’s 50th appearance for England, but it could have been different. Famously, or perhaps infamously, he represented the Republic of Ireland in three 2018 friendlies before switching allegiance to England.

His comments regarding the honour of leading England out at Wembley won’t repair his reputation with scorned Ireland fans. However, Gareth Southgate’s comments about the switch will be of interest.

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As the England manager puts it, Declan Rice had to be ‘convinced’ to play for England. A Euros final, World Cup semifinal and years of development inbetween have convinced both it was the right choice.

‘Well, first we had to convince him that it would be a good decision,’ said Southgate.

‘I think that’s being borne out by the tournaments we’ve been in, and the huge matches he’s played in.’

‘If I think back to some of the early big games which, almost every match was the biggest match of his life, now he’s won a European trophy, he’s now involved in big matches with his club.’

Despite his Irish heritage, Declan Rice has potential England captain written all over him. He’d be in line for the Arsenal captaincy as well if Martin Odegaard wasn’t already there. While he’ll only be deputising for the injured Kyle Walker and Harry Kane on Tuesday, it’s hard not to think of it as portentous. 

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“On my 50th cap, to walk out at Wembley in front of my family and friends, it is a great honour – I’m a bit speechless,” Rice said.

“It is a pinch-me moment, it will be an honour. I was absolutely lost for words when [manager Gareth Southgate] said to me I was going to be captain.”

“I have grown so much as a player and person since I first came into the group,” he added.

“As time has gone on I’ve played more big games, more games at major tournaments. I have enjoyed every moment.”