Rice reveals he's 'proud and honoured' to get England call up

Declan Rice

Declan Rice

Given that the Three Lions' boss has called up four central defenders, it seems likely that Rice will be used as a holding midfielder, rather than being utilised in the back line.

In a statement in February, Rice said he considered himself "mixed nationality" and that making the decision was "not a clear-cut, simple selection".

He described Pickford's England form as excellent but stopped short of guaranteeing the former Sunderland player would continue as first choice.

London-born Rice picked up three senior caps for Ireland in friendlies against Turkey, France and US in 2018, but dropped out of their squad last Autumn ahead of a series of competitive fixtures in the newly-formed UEFA Nations League.

The 18-year-old winger has racked up nine goals and 11 assists in all competitions this season for Lucien Favre's side.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice (right) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

"That said, there were never any guarantees made to him".

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The squad also include Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton who has been recalled after recovering from injury and regaining his place in the Clarets team. You've got to be very clear that you feel they have a future with you.

"What we've seen throughout has been an impressive character, a young man that shows tremendous leadership and responsibility".

The squad will link-up at St. George's Park next Monday ahead of the first game with Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday 22 March. What I like about our squad is that a lot of players have the mentality that they want to be amongst the best players in the world.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford remains in the squad despite some rocky form at club level with Everton, and Southgate said nothing to suggest his place in the starting XI is under threat.

"There were others who have commented despite the fact that they didn't play for the country of their birth, so they've benefited from some of the rules that are there".

The Three Lions face Czech Republic and Montenegro later this month as they look to build on promising performances at the World Cup and in the Nations League. "He's only recently got back into the team at Southampton", Southgate added.

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