- Grealish & Rice were both eligible for Ireland
- Both opted to switch to England
- O'Neill says Ireland career was never likely
WHAT HAPPENED? The Manchester City and West Ham stars were eligible to play for Ireland and England and both represented the former at youth level, with Rice even featuring in three friendlies for the senior team when O'Neill was manager. However, they switched to play for England instead and O'Neill says that was always going to be the case.
WHAT THEY SAID: The former Ireland coach said on talkSPORT: "It’s as simple as this: Declan Rice wanted to play for England. He’s born in England, it really is as simple as that, you cannot just bring them into an international game, a competitive game, where the minute they play a competitive match for the country that’s them announcing they’re going to be playing for them."
He added: "Jack Grealish was exactly the same, he was in my early stages of international management, I went to see Jack Grealish, I went to see his dad, Jack Grealish was born in England, and Jack Grealish did play some underage football for the Republic of Ireland, which he loved doing. But then when you have to make a decision, that decision was made by Jack Grealish and his father, his father’s also English too, you might go back to heritage as well, but that’s what they wanted to do, and I’m not going to disavow them of that."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Due to FIFA's rules at the time, had either of the pair been involved in a competitive match for Ireland, they would not have been able to represent England and O'Neill says it would have been wrong to try to force them into such a position.
“I would never have done it, I couldn’t possibly do that, that would be wrong for a start,” he said. “And secondly, it’s not as if they don’t know the rules. “The players know the rules and the players’ dads know the rules, it couldn’t be more simple, so this idea of taking criticism for not coercing two players who are now playing for England. “I wouldn’t possibly have done it, and Declan Rice would have been aware of it so he wouldn’t have done it.
IN THREE PHOTOS:GettyGettyGetty
WHAT NEXT FOR GREALISH AND RICE? The Premier League stars will hope to be called on to play in England's World Cup quarter-final match against France on Saturday December 10.