Martin O’Neill dismisses reports of Declan Rice declaring for England

‘Nothing surprises me in this life but I would be a bit surprised by this particular story’

Declan Rice in action for Ireland against France in May. Photograph: Getty Images

Declan Rice in action for Ireland against France in May. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Martin O’Neill has said that he would be “surprised” if a story run by Sky Sports to the effect that Declan Rice has firmly decided that he wants to play for England and that “plans are already in place (at the FA there) to lodge the necessary paperwork with Fifa to amend his international registration,” is true.

The story was posted on the Sky website within minutes of O’Neill saying at a press conference held at the Aviva stadium to announce his squad for the Nations League games against Denmark and Wales that he was still “hopeful” the 19 year-old would choose to play for Ireland.

In its story Sky’s England team correspondent Rob Dorsett said that Rice had declined a call-up from O’Neill for the forthcoming games but after an intervention by the FAI this was amended to reflect the manager’s original assertion that in a conversation between with the midfielder, the player had simply conveyed a desire to have more time to reflect on the situation.

Sky did not alter the substance of the story, however, which firmly suggested that Rice has resolved to play for England.

“I’d be a bit surprised at this moment in time, (if that’s true) a bit surprised,” O’Neill said when the content of the story was put to him. “Nothing surprises me in this life but I would be a bit surprised by this particular story.”

Asked about the suggestion that the English FA have firm plans to lodge the required papers, O’Neill said that: “I’m not in control of that,” he said before asking the reporter from Sky covering the Ireland press conference (Guy Havord) if he had the detail of his colleague’s story which, Havord said, he did not.

“Then you’ll understand that until you get the story I can’t comment on it,” said O’Neill. “All I can do is reiterate what I said in there. I have used the word ‘hopeful,’ I have used it before and I use it again because that’s exactly where it stands.”

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