FIFA approve Declan Rice's switch of international allegiance from Republic of Ireland to England

Credit: PA

West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is free to start his England career after FIFA confirmed his switch from the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old, who was born in London with Irish grandparents, considers himself "to be of mixed nationality" and has played three times for the Republic.

But because they were friendlies it left the door open to change allegiance and last month he announced his intention to formally do that, a move which has now been ratified by FIFA.

"FIFA can now confirm that the change of association of Declan Rice from Republic of Ireland to England has been approved," said a spokesman for the world governing body.

Rice has played for Ireland in three friendlies. Credit: PA

After representing Ireland at youth level, Rice went on to make three senior appearances last year, including games against France and the United States ahead of the World Cup.

However, speculation over his long-term international future mounted after he became a West Ham regular under Manuel Pellegrini this season.

In completing the switch, Rice follows in the footsteps of Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, who made the same move to England in 2016.

"I would like to make it clear that, in requesting to transfer my national team representation, I am not taking for granted a call-up to the England squad or making any assumptions about my future international career," Rice said in a statement last month.

Rice has established himself as starter for West Ham United this season. Credit: PA

"I am still only 20 years old and there is a long road ahead of me. For now, my focus remains entirely on establishing myself as a Premier League player with West Ham United and working as hard as possible to improve and be successful.

"I fully accept that some Irish supporters will be disappointed by my decision, and that everyone has different opinions in regard to the rules around international representation.

"My pride at wearing the Irish shirt was always 100 per cent genuine. Ultimately, it is a personal decision that I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future."

After gaining FIFA approval it now seems likely that Rice, who has started every one of the 26 Premier League matches he has featured in this season, scoring two goals, will be fast-tracked into the England set-up.

England manager Gareth Southgate names his squad for this month's Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro a week on Wednesday.