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James McClean tears into former Republic of Ireland teammate Declan Rice with scathing comments live on air

James McClean tears into former Republic of Ireland teammate Declan Rice with scathing comments live on air

The 35-year-old, who plays for Wrexham, didn't hold back when talking about his former international teammate.

James McClean doesn't think the hype around Declan Rice is justified – so much so that he has described his former international teammate as "very overrated" on national television.

Rice, who has Irish paternal grandparents, played for the Republic of Ireland at various youth age groups and was named their U17 Player of the Year in 2017.

He went on to make his senior debut in March 2018 and played three times for the senior side under Martin O’Neill, who was a big fan of the midfielder.

Rice, who was also impressing at West Ham, was then approached to play for England, his birth country, before switching allegiance to the Three Lions in February 2019.

Shortly before committing his allegiance to England, a number of Ireland players criticised Rice's decision to even consider the move, including former teammate Kevin Kilbane.

Kilbane expressed his disappointment at the request, saying: "I'd rather be ranked 150th in the world and never qualify again than have someone who has played, but needs time to think whether they should play for us again."

James McClean, another then-teammate, agreed with Kilbane. "Bang on lad," he replied. "Representing your country should be an honour and a proud moment."

Now, almost six years after those comments were made, McClean has delivered a no-nonsense assessment of Rice whilst on punditry dury for RTÉ Sport.

"I think Declan Rice is very overrated," he began. "Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a very good footballer, but the way the English media wax lyrical about him is completely over the top.

"For me, he’s not world class. To me world class is someone who gets in every side in the world. I don’t think he does that.

"I don't think he gets in the Man City side ahead of Rodri. I know Toni Kroos is now retiring, but to me Toni Kroos is world class. [Kroos] dictates the game, Rodri dictates the game, I don't think Rice does that."

McClean added: "He's not someone who is going get on the half turn and play passes forward. He is very good at what he does.

"They play the same role, so why can't they do the same things? If you're going to give me this much hype and reputation, then surely he should be able to do what they do? That's get the ball on the half turn, play passes forward, and dictate the play. I don't think he does that.

"He's good at what he does. He sees danger and puts out fires, but for the hype that surrounds him, I don't think it's justified."

Rice was allowed to play for England because all three of his appearances for Ireland came in friendlies – a FIFA rule that meant he was free to change national teams.

The midfielder has made 52 appearances under Gareth Southgate since his debut in 2019.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision and, in all honesty, not one I ever expected to be making at this stage of my career,” he said after he decided to switch allegiance.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

“Like so many people around the world, I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I am a proud Englishman, having been born and raised in London. However, I am just as proud of my family’s Irish heritage and my affinity and connection with the country.

"I have equal respect and love for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection. Particularly not for a young lad who never dreamed of being in this position.

“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. 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.

"However, I hope that people can understand that I have made this decision with honesty, integrity and the full support of my family.”

Featured Image Credit: X/@RTEsport - Getty Images

Topics: Declan Rice, Ireland, Republic of Ireland, England, Euro 2024