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"The Rice Rule" | Why Will Smallbone will always have to answer questions about his allegiance

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

21:53 13 Oct 2020

Damien Delaney and Dan McDonnell joined the Football Show on Off The Ball where the pair spoke about concerns over Will Smallbone not declaring for the Republic of Ireland following the Declan Rice affair.

Delaney highlighted the pressure from all sides on English-born players to declare for England were possible.

"It's difficult when England want to call you up. Your family, your agent, and your club are all putting pressure on you," said the former Crystal Palace defender.

"Your club want you to be English because your value is obviously increased if they want to sell you on.

"Your agent wants you to be English so you can get a better contract and your family are pushing you towards what you want to do."

Delaney had some sympathy for the situation Declan Rice found himself in.

"When you get that amount of pressure coming down on you. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Declan Rice," Delaney said.

"It's difficult for a young boy, at the time to take that amount [of pressure] and to go against all that advice for a country that he loves.

"When it comes to the crunch, it's a difficult choice for him, but Will Small bone has nailed his colours to the mast but only time will tell to see if we can get him capped. The sooner the better, really.

The Rice Rule

Dan McDonnell says there is a possibly misplaced fear among fans and media following the Rice affair.

"It's Irish paranoia now, it's the 'Rice Rule,' it doesn't matter what you say or do," asserted the Irish Independent journalist.

"You can kiss the crest and sing the anthem, Declan Rice did everything. He did the whole lot, didn't he even like a couple of tweets with questionable connotations? He went all the way and he still didn't play."

The effects of Declan Rice's defection means Smallbone can go to any lengths, and fans will still be concerned about him absconding to the Three Lions.

"I don't know what Will Smallbone has to do now, bleed green? Sing the national anthem himself on the microphone?" wondered McDonnell.

"It doesn't matter, every English-born player in the Irish underage set-up will face these questions until they can't play for England.

"That's just the legacy of that [Rice], so even people who are genuine will still have scepticism around them because of how far Rice went. It's just going to be there."

Smallbone emergence

Unfortunately, the pattern of Smallbone's emergence with his senior club side added to some speculation, but Dan busted that conspiracy theory.

"When he came through at Southampton at senior level and played in the FA Cup last year, then he was out injured so wasn't in the Irish underage side for a  while. So people were wondering.

"Once he was fit again, he was straight back in the squad and straight into the team.

"He's been tweeting tricolours, what more can he do? He can post a Rory's Stories clip or something?

"He is there, it seems, to stay but of course until he has a senior start, he will face this. That's just an occupational hazard now."


Read more about

Declan Rice Ireland Under-21 Republic Of Ireland Stephen Kenny Will Smallbone

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