West Ham captain Mark Noble has spoken about Declan Rice’s decision to switch international allegiances.
The 20-year-old midfielder made his international debut for England on Friday night against the Czech Republic, having previously made three appearances for the Republic of Ireland.
However, none of his games for Ireland were in competitive matches and, as a result, Rice was allowed to make a switch to represent England – and he immediately earned a spot in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Rice has attracted criticism for the change, with many believing that it is a regulation that FIFA need to clamp down on – but Noble has defended his midfield partner, pointing out how difficult the decision was for somebody of his age.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him. We’ve played together for the last season now, and it’s been hard on him. He’s lucky the way he is, really, he’s got a good family around him, and the decision, it wasn’t easy,” he told BBC Radio 5Live.
“We forget, the press forgets, and everyone forgets, that he was still only 19/18 years old when he was making this decision. And he’s still got a lot of growing up to do. I spoke to him a lot about it, and he made his decision.
“Obviously you’ve got to stick by that now and he will. He didn’t dive into it, he took his time, he let everyone know what he was going to do. He’s come across a lot of stick, which you do now on social media but whatever decision it was, he was going to get stick. He’s happy with the decision he made though.”