Jon Walters: If you don't feel it for Ireland, don't play
Former Ireland forward Jon Walters has said that he knew from last summer that Declan Rice was probably going to switch his allegiance from England.
Rice was capped three times by the Republic of Ireland before switching his international allegiance to England last month and Walters said that the versatile West Ham United midfielder grew up as an England supporter.
"It's a difficult one for me because I really like Declan, I think he's a really, really nice lad," said Walters on Virgin Media One.
"I knew back in the summer. I spoke with him at length on his own and I knew sort of where his head lay with it. Knowing that and then going back to England and having a presentation just about him from the England management and the England setup, it was always going to be a difficult situation for him.
"He was telling me he feels English and he feels like supporting the team. He was a supporter of the team although he came through the Irish youth system. I think there was only going to be one outcome for me. I think from the summer onwards, although it was protracted and it went on for a while, I think speaking to him and knowing his thoughts on it, he has got to go with how he felt and how he feels."
Walters added that it can be difficult for young kids coming through the system with external pressures but noted that you should be able to competently make a decision once you reach senior level.
Following Declan Rice's switch, Michael Keane has come out and admitted using Ireland as a stepping stone as an underage international.@JonWalters19 & @kdkilbane77 discuss the ethics of playing for a country you don't feel attached to. #VMSport pic.twitter.com/0KQQxepdNv
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) March 22, 2019
"As soon as our games were over he was back over there for a one-on-one presentation for himself and if the England manager and the England setup are coming that strongly for you and that's how you feel then that's it.
"I think in youth football lads are 12, 13 and 14 and are coming across and getting involved and people are getting scouted very early to see if there's any heritage, from both sides as well, it's a hard one when you're a young lad.
"I suppose you get pushed by parents an family members and once you're in the system, you're in the system. I've to be careful not to be hypocritical because we're after some players that have been through the English system as well but when you get to a certain level and you play senior football, if you don't feel it, you shouldn't play.
"It's not to further your career, it's not because you're not playing at club level or anything like that, if you don't feel it and that's not how you feel and how you've been brought up then that's not what you should do.
"I don't think it's right to do but it's happened but in a way you've almost got to respect him, he hasn't helped himself with what he said during the week, but it's done now."