Republic of Ireland ace Shane Duffy defends 'very good lad' Declan Rice as international tug-of-war with England continues

Rice, 19, is currently involved in an international tug-of-war between England and Martin O’Neill’s men.

The defensive midfielder, who has made three appearances for the Republic at senior level, is also yet to agree a new contract at the London Stadium – with his current deal expiring in 2020.

Rice, who qualifies for the Republic through his Irish father, has asked for more time to consider his options.

O’Neill recently revealed that he remains hopeful that the versatile teenager will choose to play for the Republic over the Three Lions.

And Brighton ace Duffy, who has previously backed Rice to be a future Ireland captain, sympathises with the midfielder’s situation – praising his character and application throughout.

He told SunSport: “Declan is his own person first and foremost.

“He has to do what he feels is best for himself, his family and his career.

“You look at the calibre of player he is and it would be a big blow (him choosing England) for any country, let alone Ireland.

“I know him well. He’s a very good lad – as well as a top young player.”

Duffy added: “It’s a waiting game now. He’s taking his time making his decision and that shows you he is taking it all very seriously – it’s a huge career call.

“People forget the kid is only 19 and then he has the pressure of playing for a big club like West Ham in the Premier League, too.

“I think he’s coping with it all pretty well to be honest with you – he’s been one of their best players.

“As an Ireland squad member and fan I’d absolutely love to see him play for us. I’m keeping my fingers crossed like everyone else."

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