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‘Rice is the answer for England in defence’ – Redknapp calls for position U-turn from West Ham star

12:20 GMT+3 14/10/2019
Declan Rice England 2019-20
The Hammers starlet began his senior career as a centre-half before being moved into a holding midfield role, but could step back again at some point

Declan Rice can be “the answer to England’s problems in defence”, says Jamie Redknapp, with the West Ham starlet advised to consider moving back out of a holding midfield berth.

The 20-year-old Hammers academy graduate began his senior career as a centre-half before Manuel Pellegrini then experimented with moving the youngster into the engine room and has been rewarded with consistent performances that have made Rice a star for club and country.

It has been suggested that the likes of Manchester United are now mulling over the merits of making a big-money move to bring a player with considerable potential into their midfield unit.

Redknapp, though, believes that Rice could have a long-term future back at the heart of defence, with England looking for another reliable operator to partner Harry Maguire.

The former Three Lions midfielder told the Daily Mail: “Is Declan Rice the answer to England’s problems in defence? I suspect he could be.

“I see a centre-back in the 20-year-old and that is where his future could lie for club and country, rather than being used solely in midfield.

“In the modern game, players are being told to pass it out from the back, and Rice is capable of executing that.

“He'd be more than happy to get on the ball and has the intelligence needed to form an effective centre-back partnership.

“Watch West Ham and you'll see this young man is excellent at what he does. In the Premier League this season, only two midfielders have made more tackles than Rice.

“He also ranks fourth for interceptions and seventh for ball recoveries. I believe he could apply those talents to central defence, too, while being the proficient passer Gareth Southgate wants.

“The England boss will have spent this weekend trying to figure out what the best balance is.

“After being stunned by the Czech Republic in Prague, and after conceding three goals against Kosovo at St Mary's in a 5-3 win last month, there are big question marks surrounding Southgate's defence.

“Rice is likely to miss out against Bulgaria on Monday night due to illness, but using him at the back could be the long-term answer.”

England have been using Michael Keane alongside Maguire in Euro 2020 qualifying, but he has struggled to convince with the likes of Tyrone Mings and Joe Gomez also competing for a starting berth.